G'day mate! Court throws Men at Work on the barbie!
A federal court in Australia ruled that Men at Work reproduced a "substantial part" of "Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree." Read about it online at Billboard.
Apparently the flute part of the "Down Under" has a similar melody to "Kookaburra."
Here are the two songs so you can compare them yourself:
I think this decision underscores exactly what is wrong with the copyright system. The songs were so "similar" that it took the entire world 30 years to notice! How similar can they be if millions of people happily listened to both songs without thinking they were the same?
Even if they are similar, how much damage was done? The original author of Kookaburra, Marion Sinclair has been dead for over 20 years. When she was alive, she never even noticed how similar the songs were, or if she did, she didn't sue anybody.
According to Billboard:
Larrikin (who now owns the rights to "Kookaburra") argues that damages in the region of 40% and 60% of royalties accrued by "Down Under" is "fair."
Does that seem even remotely fair to anyone else? That seems completely ridiculous to me.
Sinclair wrote the song in 1932, and, according to Wikipedia:
The tune is taken from the Welsh folk song "A Ei Di'r 'Deryn Du" or "Dacw ti yn eistedd, y 'deryn du" (English translation "There you are sitting, black bird."). The syllables and themes are almost identical in pattern to those in "Kookaburra".
So it seems Ms. Sinclair didn't exactly think up Kookaburra on her own either. I'm sure someone in Wales is contacting an entertainment lawyer right now.
See my earlier post: Why today's copyright law doesn't work with today's music.