Thursday, 4 February 2010

Men at Work lose plagiarism case

Down Under (song)Image via Wikipedia

Men at Work may need to get back to work to pay their legal bills.

The big news today is that Scottish Aussie pop combo Men At Work have been found guilty of plagiarism and a federal court in Sydney ordered compensation to be paid. The old school-exam style crime pertains to their 1981 pop anthem "Down Under" which depicts a backpacker's travels around the world.

The song, seen in some countries as the only hit of a one hit wonder is synonymous with Aussie pride and is played at any event mildly connected to Australia - the closing of the Syndney Olympics, the unofficial anthem of the Australian team that won the Americas Cup in 1983, an iconic Qantas ad and  Australia Day celebrations on any given year.

The passage in despute is the famous flute line that runs throughout the song. It has been deemed this is a direct lift of the children's song "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree," written by Marion Sinclair in 1934.

Music copyright lawyer Stephen Digby told ABC Online he was surprised by the court's decision. "I think it could have gone either way but my initial reaction was always that this was going to be a very hard case for (publisher) Larrikin to win," he said.

With a win in the bag for Larrikin, a court hearing is to take place later this month to determine exactly how much of the royalties for the song Men At Work songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert will have to pay back, as well as and record companies Sony BMG Music Entertainment and EMI Songs Australia. The figure bandied about at the moment is 40-60%.

Let's hope Vegemite don't come calling for unlicenced use of a brand name.
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