While the iiNet case has been nothing but good news
for copyright in Australia, over the past few years, at nearly the same time, there's been an important copyright case concerning fair use that has been nothing but an ugly splotch on Australian copyright law: the fight
over whether or not the band Men at Work infringed on the copyright of an old Australian folk song, Kookaburra. The details of the case were really stunning once you looked at them. The Men at Work song clearly had a very brief flute line that paid homage to the folk song, but was an entirely different song on its own. Furthermore, the lawsuit came many decades after the song, "Down Under," had been a huge hit. At best, the case should have been dumped for the delay in bringing it. Even more ridiculous, the holder of the copyright, Larrikan Music, didn't even notice the supposed infringement itself, until an exec heard about it on a TV trivia show.
Still, bizarrely, the Australian courts repeatedly ruled in favor
of Larrikan. When Australia's High Court refused
to hear the appeal, the awful appeals court
ruling stood, saying that the song infringed, and 5% of its royalties belonged to Larrikan.
As a bunch of people are sending in, it appears that this story has a truly tragic ending, as Men at Work band member Greg Ham has been found dead
-- with multiple stories suggesting that this particular case and the ruling completely destroyed his life:
"I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered - for copying something..."
Other reports say that he was so distraught over the ruling, he went back to using heroin and abusing alcohol. While he clearly had issues to deal with beyond this, it does appear that the ruling helped push him over the edge. That's really quite tragic.