1 July 2010

Men at work infringing the Kookaburra Down Under

If you are older than 25, you might have heard, and sang, the old nursery rhyme "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree". 

The Australian music group, Larrikin Publishing, bought the copyright in the Kookaburra musical work after the author's death in 1988 (the copyright is still valid for 50 years after the death of the author).

The 80's Australian rock band, Men at Work, famous for their song 'Down Under', with the chorus 'I come from a land down under. Where beer does flow and men chunder. Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover', was recently the subject of an Australian Federal Court ruling, in which it was held that the flute riff in this rock anthem copied the melody of this popular nursery rhyme.

Interestingly enough, the court battle started with a trivia question on Australian quiz show 'Spicks & Specks.' In this show contestants were asked to identify the song that could be heard in Down Under from Men at Work.

It was only then that Larrikin became aware of the songs' similarities and instituted legal action.

The Court found that the flute riff in 'Down Under' mimicked the Kookaburra song. It was, however, not the main part or the 'hook' of the song and damages would therefore be significantly less than what it would have been, had it been the 'hook'. Another hearing will be held in the next six months to determine royalties owed.

Eben van Wyk, Director, Intellectual Property
Regardt Botes, Associate, Intellectual Property

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