Thursday, February 04, 2010

Go after the elementary schools too while you’re at it.

"Down Under" became one of my favorite songs back in the 80s. I was a little sad to hear that the group, Men at Work, has lost a copyright infringement suit. Apparently a part of the song contained a tune from the kid song “Kookaburra Sits in an Old Gum Tree.” It’s that fluty section. Here’s the video. Listen for it:

I never made the connection although now that I’ve listened, I do hear it. Still the decision disgusts me. First of all, who knew that Kookaburra was even in copyright? Seriously, what other childhood songs that we learned are copyrighted? (Did you know that Happy Birthday to You is in copyright?) It’s ridiculous. I think that songs such as Kookaburra have entered into the public domain and ought to be free from infringement suits. Kinda like generic trademarks – asprin, thermos.

The plaintiff, Larrikin Music Publishing, is presumably going to be rewarded damages although due to statute of limitations, they’re not going to get back royalties for the entire time the song has been out. The Australian reports that Larrikin is seeking 40-60% royalties which is, to me, outrageous. First, there aren’t any damages that I can tell. Who confused the two songs? As I said, I didn’t even make a connection until it was pointed out. Second, the infringement is a small part of the song. Finally, it’s a freaking kid song whose only commercial value lies in music books in elementary schools and maybe episodes of The Wiggles.



h/t to alliewolfgal for posting the vid on youtube.

3 comments:

John Provis said...

...and worst of all, the plaintiff has absolutely zero connection to the original songwriter, who wrote the song as a contest entry in the 1930s and transferred the copyright to the Girl Guides association, who then on-sold it for a few thousand dollars in the 1990s to these parasites who are now trying to rip off an actual group of artists. Just like patent trolling, except... actually, no, it is exactly like patent trolling. Yes, I'm outraged about it. They buy the rights to something they played no role in creating (which is a total of about 4 bars of music in the form of a kids' song), and this is quoted in an instrumental break in a major (and good!) song, thereby making up a few percent of the song at most. Simply ridiculous.

And yes, one of the reasons I admire the song is because it's the only time I've ever heard the word 'chunder' used in the popular media...

David said...

I will admit for a long time, I had idea of what some of the things in that song were or meant. But one day, i had to find out what a vegemite sandwich was...

John Provis said...

...and your taste buds have never recovered from the trauma? Seriously, vegemite should be declared illegal under chemical weapons laws, it's just hideous.