Music publishing, record labels
More of the same – An Australian Court has found that Men at Work did copy Larrikin Music’s song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, written by Marion Sinclair in 1934, in their composition and recording Down Under. Down Underrecord company Sony BMG and publisher EMI Songs Australia had disputed the claim but today the Federal Court ruled in Larrikin’s favour and Larrikin Music’s lawyer Adam Simpson welcomed his win saying it was yet to be decided what percentage of earnings from the song they’d be seeking commenting “It depends. I mean anything from what we have claimed which is between 40% and 60% and what they suggest which is considerably less”. The judge also ruled that a Qantas advertisement which used a small similar section of the riff was not in breach of copyright laws. EMI said it was pleased with this decision but Larrikin Music’s has said that it wasn’t ruling out further legal action. In an interview with ABC Australia’s The World Today programme music lawyer Stephen Digby said he was surprised by the court’s decision saying “ think it could have gone either way but my initial reaction and also looking at this case my initial reaction following it has always been that this is going to be a very hard case for Larrikin to win” adding “it is certainly an identifiable and discernable piece within the song but as a gut feel, my gut feel was that it was probably not a substantial, sufficiently substantial in the song as a whole. Clearly the judge disagreed with me” and Digby says that he is looking forward to seeing the judgment in full and “I’m hopeful that in that he might give us guidance on what he considers to be a considerable, a substantial part or not.” The judge in the case, Justice Peter Jacobson, ruled on the matter saying: “I have come to the view that the 1979 recording and the 1981 recording of ‘Down Under’ infringe Larrikin’s copyright in ‘Kookaburra’ because both of those recordings reproduce a substantial part of ‘Kookaburra’. I am also of the view that Larrikin is entitled to recover damages … for the infringements”. He added: “I would emphasise that the findings I have made do not amount to a finding that the flute riff is a substantial part of ‘Down Under’ or that it is the ‘hook’ of the song”.
for an interesting opinion by Melbourne writer Helen Razer on the decision seehttp://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/band-are-victims-of-obstinate-rule-of-law-20100205-niie.html