Insanity: Men At Work Lose Final Appeal For Using Brief Riff Of Classic Folks Song, Which Went Unnoticed For Decades

from the pay-up dept

More copyright insanity coming from down under. As you may recall, a couple years ago, the music publisher Larrikin sued for copyright infringement over the 80s pop hit Down Under by the band “Men at Work,” claiming that it infringed on a classic Australia folk song, called Kookaburra. It seemed odd that it would take decades for anyone to make this claim, and even the boss at Larrikin only noticed it when an Australian quiz show mentioned it in a question. Then, suddenly, Larrikin wanted to get paid. The district court sided with Larrikin as did the appeals court. Now, as a bunch of you have been sending in, Australia’s high court is refusing to hear the appeal, meaning the appeals court ruling stands… and apparently a big chunk of royalties from the pop song will be going to Larrikin — who had nothing to do with the song and didn’t even notice the weak connection until someone pointed it out.

At best, the Men at Work song is an homage to the folksong. All this ruling has done is demonstrate how copyright can be used to put a toll on culture.

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Companies: emi, larrikin music

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Comments on “Insanity: Men At Work Lose Final Appeal For Using Brief Riff Of Classic Folks Song, Which Went Unnoticed For Decades”

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69 Comments
Prisoner 201 says:

Seriously, don’t you think artists deserve to get paid for their work?

I don’t get it, why must artists be a slave sublclass that works for free? Huh?

You swing the “copymaximalist” broadbrush freely, but its just FUD to hide your piracy apologism. You need to grow up and realise that we live in a civilized society, not the wild west.

You are a Piracy Theft Party spokesperson, but that party is over. Really, try to be sensible for once.

Stealing is wrong. Raping and killing is wrong. Terrorism is wrong.

You need to stop fighting strawmen and just obey the law. Really, the goverment should stomp on rogues sites like this one.

PROTECT IP is coming for you, Pirate Mike.

heyDumbAss (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The, uh, “artist” is dead. The song associated with the riff is over 70 years old. This guy, Mr. Larrikin is a fucking tool and epitomizes every second thing that’s wrong with copyright extensions. 20 years, get paid, make something else then 20 more for you.

Some tool gets a dead guys (or gals) package and wants to reap without sowing anything? You’re fucking kidding me right now right?

And some of you guys wonder why people “steal” your shit?.. because you’re fat fucking lazy idiots than can’t do much apart from “steal” your damn selves. We’re coming.. you have no delivery stream lock in – we have evolved. We have evolved around you and will continue to as long as your fat, stupid, self-serving asses are still asking your, clearly, better halves to keep changing the channel for you.

You’re fat, slow and stupid. Oh, and you suck.
PROTECT-IP – yeah, what-the-fuck ever.. and nobody smokes weed either.

Cheers!

Oh.. wait.. this is sarcastic isn’t it? Well… then… I win!

out_of_the_blue says:

So make copyright non-transferrable.

I have an actual solution, while none of you — do.

Hey, Mike, here’s your weekend homework: a list of FIXES for this broken system. You can’t beat something with nothing. After all these years, you should be able to rattle off the changes needed. Don’t worry much about whether practical, just list what you’ll do when society recognizes you as philsopher-king and grants you a year to sweep away the accumulated privileges to set society right again. … (Good heavens, even my fantasies have a time limit set on them!) … Anyway, telling us this never ending series of losses to moneyed interests is NO help: LET’S HAVE YOUR SOLUTIONS.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

My fix is simple.

Copyrights should last for 5 years with an option to 5 more and that is it, if you made money out of it fine if not others have a chance to make it too.

Then you can put all the more stringent laws there can be and people wouldn’t mind that much.

It has to be very short though if you want to make things get ridiculous.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

You missed one important point: copyright has to be opt-in. It should be a free, simple and easy process, but you should have to register in order to get copyright. The way things work now – where you technically own copyrights on every post-it-note doodle you ever drew – is ridiculous.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

You missed one important point: copyright has to be opt-in.

While we’re hitting the crack pipe: yes! Short-term opt-in copyrights FTW! My prediction is copyright law will never be improved. In 50 or 100 years time all this bad law will still be on the books, but nobody will bother using it anymore. It will be like those laws making it illegal to shoot a buffalo from a moving train. So is that prediction, cynical, hopeful, or both? Pessoptimistic?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

It can be anything, as long as it is short.

I can live 5 maybe 10 years with ridiculous copyrights, I could reluctantly accept that although I dislike it tremendously, I can wait 5 to 10 years, but I will never ever respect anything passing that.

They can make it criminal, have fines that expand at the speed of the universe expansion, not allow any public or private viewing without payment, put ridiculous DRM and so forth I can live with all that if it is very very short and that is 5 year for me, with the maximum being 10 and no more.

Copyright is a monopoly, it is a social poison and should be administered in very low doses.

If they want me to hold my hands to a hot frying pan voluntarily it will be very very brief or they will find themselves fighting for their lives trying to hold my hand to that hot surface.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

I read on some thread earlier a proposal for initial 5 year and subsequent 5 year upgrades to 20 years for copyright. I kind of like this idea, if the initial cost is 0 and the subsequent upgrades cost increasingly more, with a significant piece going to taxes and another significant piece going to education. One might think of a percentage of sales (sales and/or infringement recovery) for this cost.

This idea wouldn’t hurt patents either. If you aren’t producing a product you might not be able to afford the 5 year upgrade cost. If you are sitting on a patent, you have reason to find it viable or not within 5 years.

Thoughts?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

I don’t really like the financial aspect you propose… Creators are already going to pay income tax on any money they make, and the goal here is very much not to make it harder for creators to exploit the commercial potential of their work. The goal is to narrow the focus of copyright to the period when a work is generally most profitable – the first 5 to 20 years or so – and, more importantly, to but the impetus on creators to request copyright, which in time will lead to the broad perception change we so badly need. If you ask your average person on the street if a musician “owns his songs like property” they would probably say yes – and that’s frightening. This is all about restoring the balance of artist rights and public rights. It’s also, mostly, a fantasy – 5 year copyright increments aren’t likely to be coming any time soon.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So make copyright non-transferrable.

First 5 years free, after that when you want to extent your copyright you pay (increasing in value). That will have you wonder about making incentives to either sell it more, because you paid to extend the copyright for a reason.

This would ensure a lively and decent public domain as well.

but this all is just a pipe-dream, will never happen, unless we can oust the morons calling the shots and get people in that also take the public’s interests in mind when proposing laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So make copyright non-transferrable.

The incentives are there only if you can make it profitable if not you have all the incentives to dump that copyright and let others make use of it.

Frankly I don’t even believe in IP law, I believe it should be free and every one should be able to use anything from anywhere to make money out of it and the market decides who is the most capable people and let the market structure itself on the natural evolution of those markets.

Of course that would make it difficult for someone to exploit commercially any thing, but that is not a bad thing, it weeds out the weak and incapable.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

I would prefer a 20 year copyright, with an option to renew every 20 years until the artist in question dies. The exception would be that no corporation can buy an artist’s copyright, nor can it be transferred to an heir by default.

The reasoning for this is that some works take longer than 5 years before they become successful or recoup their costs. If an artist cannot make a profit after 20 years, either they’re an astoundingly poor businessman or their work is not worth the money. After 20 years, those who wish to continue making money as a monopoly can do so (but not pass royalties on to those who did not create the work), and works not considered “profitable” can freely enter the public domain where they ultimately belong.

I’ve not heard a reasonable objection to this idea in the many years I’ve been suggesting it.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

I’ve not heard a reasonable objection to this idea in the many years I’ve been suggesting it.

How about this: the best copyright term is the shortest one that is sufficient to incentivise production, because that’s its only legitimate purpose. I think we’re both going off of intuition rather than facts (though if not, lay ’em out), but 20 years to life seems like WAY longer than necessary to me.

Who would say to themselves that they might consider making a movie (or book, or whatever), but only if they could have copyright on it for 20 years or more? I have a great idea for a book, but I’m not going to bother because I’ll only have the copyright for 10 years? I don’t see it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So make copyright non-transferrable.

My thought is that some works can take more than 5-10 years to recoup the costs for various reasons. But, if it takes longer than 20 years, you’re obviously doing something wrong and there’s a limit on how long you can justifiably be protected. Plus contract deals can mean that a work is orphaned and thus unavailable to the public after a period as short as 20 years.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 So make copyright non-transferrable.

My thought is that some works can take more than 5-10 years to recoup the costs for various reasons.

Maybe, but it seems like not only would those be a small minority, but they would also mostly be accidental. That is, I’m guessing very few works are released with a plan to recoup the money over a period of 20 years or more. Some might actually do that, but I think when that happens it’s because the actual plan for making money failed, and then it either happened to make it up later, or a new plan was concocted to help make the money back.

So if I’m right, then a longer copyright term still isn’t needed, because it doesn’t generally enter into plans to create content. Now… does anyone know if I’m right? :-p

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

No law will be perfect, no law will cover everything, and if anybody thinks they can cover everything they are just idiots.

With that in mind can you provide a percentage higher than 50% that would justify such a thing?

“Some works take longer” is not enough to justify giving anybody a long term copyright, it is a monopoly it is a social poison and as such should be given in very dilute form and that mean the shortest term possible and that is by today standards 10 years, after that most works loose the economic appeal and no longer are profitable or desirable in the eyes of commerce.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

Free market will decide if a) content creators will be willing to create content void of the laws that “protect” it, and b) whether consumers are willing to pay for it or not (if they’re unwilling to pay for it, then none will get created, if they are willing to pay, then there should be no problem)

Let the the creators/consumers hash it out, stop trying to force it one way or the other.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So make copyright non-transferrable.

(if they’re unwilling to pay for it, then none will get created, if they are willing to pay, then there should be no problem)

Actually I disagree with your assertion that if the public is unwilling to pay, content will not be created. I would say rather there is nothing any government could do to keep people from creating. They will do it no matter what.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So make copyright non-transferrable.

Yes, people will create regardless. For some folks, it is a question of making a living on it, or a living for their heirs nowadays. Nothing in current IP enforcement enhances creativity in any way.

It is, however, inhibiting newcomers to the creativity process. If they are indoctrinated to believe that making money is the only reason to be creative, then creativity is harmed.

On the other side, non scarce goods seems like a market prediction.

Someantimalwareguy (profile) says:

There is nothing new in music...

…and never will be.

There are only so many notes, played in specific ways that are pleasing to the human ear. This means that any new creations have to, and will, be built from the work of others – that is fact and further, there is no music from the past that didn’t rip something from the artists that preceded them.

All this is, is someone charging rent because they are too lazy and apathetic to get off their rear-ends and actually create something, even if it is just a reinterpretation of something from the past…

Unless of course you really do like Klingon Opera…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There is nothing new in music...

Well Mr. Wet Blanket, that comment is utterly wrong.

Sticking with the “pleasing” aspect of a 7 note scale and 15 seconds worth of music to make a song, only allowing 1 note per second within that 15 seconds gives us the result of 4747561509943 possible songs. Factor in chords, tempo, key, time changes, key changes, additional instruments, lyrics, etc and you are left with basically infinite numbers of songs.

Saying all that, blues are my favorite type of music and people still keep coming up with variations on that stuff.

Aleron (user link) says:

Copyright madness polluted by greed

This case is beyond silly, it does nothing to protect the IP of the original creator and allows low minded sharks to profit from a work they had no input in making. Colin Hayes is a a hugely original and talented write/musician, no one hit wonder. I feel very upset for him and the band, but EMI should have known better, that’s what they get their commission for in the first place.

Copyright should only ever last as long as the original creator is alive and should never be available to sale or resale by anyone but the original creator. All original creators should receive recognition both in print and financially for any use of their original work. This should include all artists of any type… painters, writers, musicians etc..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Copyright madness polluted by greed

I agree this ruling is ridiculous but don’t agree that copyright should be tied to the life of the original creator…why does the length or brevity of someone’s life have anything to do with copyright at all? It should be a [short!] period of years for everyone so it is common knowledge and easy to track. Should the original creator die prior to the expiration, the rights go to the heirs for the remaining period.

And when it’s over, it’s over.

colin says:

Men At Work / Kookaburra

The decision’s actual reasoning at first instance was fine – the evidence was absolutely clear that the MoW guys intentionally incorporated the riff into the recording. The finding as to quantum was kinda weird. Kookaburra is not in public domain and is not a folk song any more than Happy Birthday is PD. Or Help. Or any other song still in copyright. The reasons it was not “detected” earlier have more to do with corporate amnesia than human daftness. Many of us recognised it from Day ! of the LDO’s release. Everyone assumed it had been cleared. That riff made the LDO song much more memorable immediately as the riff resonated with people consciously and unconsciously. It had commercial value. The writer deserved to have her work recognised. A strange case but not really odd once the nuance is revealed.

CS

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Men At Work / Kookaburra

Well the writer is dead, so I don’t think she minds. The other problem with this ruling is that it may discourage other musicians from incorporating aspects of cultural touchstone works into their own art. The best we can hope for is a transfer of some money from one label to another, but the worst is to actually inhibit creativity, the exact opposite of the purpose of copyright (at least in the US, I don’t know about Australia).

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: Men At Work / Kookaburra

“…any more than Happy Birthday is PD.”

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/story?id=5413561&page=1

So much for that example.

As an aside, I love this quote (from the article I just linked):

“Through the years, there have been many copyrighted compositions such as ‘Happy Birthday to You’ that have become part of America’s cultural fabric. And the ability of artists ? authors, composers, lyricists and other creators ? to be compensated for their copyrighted work is a cornerstone of the American economy and culture,” Warner Music spokesman Will Tanous said.

So I have to wonder, which one is Warner Music: the author, the composer, the lyricist or other creator? They apparently inherited it from the Hill sisters.

It’s a good thing Warner Music is being compensated after 80 years, because we know it will encourage the Hill sisters to create more good works.

Lucas (profile) says:

parody okay, but not ?

So Weird Al could take the song, change all the lyrics to be funny, and it would be okay because its a parody and that is considered freedom of expression. You are free to use a song to express how silly you find it, but not to express how much you like it? Why is expression through parody okay, but expression through homage is infringment?

Uh oh… If this comment has any impact on the recording industry it will probably be to make Weird Al pay royalties too.

Sorry, Al! Wasn’t my intention!

darryl says:

It is hard to work out Mike if you are 'for' or 'against' the LAW

So you would agree that we should reform or cancel the law on murder because people keep being convicted of murder ?

Mike you appear to be saying

“We need to change the law because that law appears to be working so well!!!”.

What are you upset about Mike, someone seeking the rights under the law, or someone taking the rights of someone else ?

I can understand your stance though, if you see a law that appears to be doing exactly what it intended to do, and working well that would upset you.

So who are you upset with here in this case Mike ?

Men At work for using someone elses riff, or Larakin for deciding to exercise their RIGHT to that Riff ?

It appears you are not quiet sure ether ! therefore the rant!!

Or is it just a knee jerk reaction when you hear the word ‘copyright’ you just have to type ?

Here is a heading for you !!

Man is convicted of murder, Mike called for repeal of murder laws

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