Tuesday 22 August 2017

Band loses Down Under song appeal

Men at Work have lost their final court bid to prove they did not steal the distinctive flute riff of their 1980s hit Down Under (AP)
Men at Work have lost their final court bid to prove they did not steal the distinctive flute riff of their 1980s hit Down Under (AP)

Australian rockers Men at Work have lost their final court bid to prove they did not steal the distinctive flute riff of their 1980s hit Down Under from a children's campfire song.

The High Court of Australia denied the band's bid to appeal against a federal court judge's earlier ruling that the group had copied the signature flute melody of Down Under from the song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.

Kookaburra, a song about an Australian bird of the same name, was written more than 70 years ago by teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides competition.

The song went on to become a favourite around campfires. The wildly popular Down Under remains an unofficial anthem for Australia.

Sinclair died in 1988, but publishing company Larrikin Music - which now holds the copyright for Kookaburra - filed a copyright lawsuit in 2009.

Last year, Federal Court Justice Peter Jacobson ruled that the Down Under flute riff replicated a substantial part of Sinclair's song.

The judge later ordered Men at Work's recording company, EMI Songs Australia, and Down Under songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert to pay five percent of royalties earned from the song since 2002 and from its future earnings. Larrikin wasn't able to seek royalties earned before 2002 because of a statute of limitations.

"Larrikin welcomes the decision and looks forward to resolving the remaining issues between the parties," the company's lawyer Adam Simpson said.

Mark Bamford, a lawyer for EMI, called the High Court's decision disappointing.

Down Under and the album it was on, Business As Usual, reached No 1 on the Australian, American and British charts in early 1983. That year, Men at Work won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

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