Last summer we were among those amazed at the claim from a music publisher that the popular 80's song, "Down Under," by the band, Men at Work, supposedly infringed
on a popular Australian folk tune, Kookaburra, that was written back in the 1930s. The publisher who sued, Larrikin, had only taken possession of the copyright on the folk tune in 2000, and didn't even notice the similarity until a TV quiz show pointed it out. You would think that this, alone, should make any copyright claim null and void. But... not to the Australian courts, who first ruled that the song infringed
earlier this year and now (thanks to sinsi
for pointing this out) have said that the band needs to pay Larrikin 5% of its royalties
from 2002 onward. The only "good" news is that Larrikin had asked for 60%, even though the use of Kookaburra is limited to a little flute solo, and is clearly an homage to the song. Also, since the royalties only start in 2002, well after the song has faded from popularity, it may limit what Larrikin gets. Still, the whole lawsuit, and the fact that this was found to be infringing, is a bit of a travesty.