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One song does not a muso make

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One song does not a muso make

Bernard Zuel
February 5, 2010

COLIN HAY’S career has been defined by Down Under, but his reputation as a songwriter and performer has long since moved past that – even if we haven’t.

The song, a massive success on both sides of the Atlantic as well as South America, Asia and Australia, wasn’t the first hit Hay wrote, or the last. Men At Work first had a No. 1 in Australia and the US with Who Can It Be Now?, while the band had two more top 10 hits in the US with Overkill and It’s A Mistake.

Since their breakup in 1985, Hay has released 10 solo albums and has toured consistently from his base in Los Angeles. He has occasionally performed with his former bandmate Greg Ham (who played the flute riff that caused this sticky problem) as Men At Work. And he remains, as they say, big in Brazil.

Not one of his solo albums of folk and folk-rock songs has troubled the upper reaches of the charts, but almost all have received warm praise and he still makes money from his work – not guaranteed for any musician in his 50s, particularly someone who has declined opportunities to perform on the many retro pop shows that dot stages and cabaret rooms around the world.

He has even acquired an audience with little or no knowledge of Men At Work, mainly because the band had broken up before they were born.

The use of his songs on, and his appearances in, the long-running television sitcom Scrubs generated a new fan base.

The judge’s comment that while the flute part substantially reproduces a portion of Kookaburra, his judgment did not amount to a finding that the flute riff is a substantial part ofDown Under or ”that it is the hook of the song” means that Hay need not apologise for, or explain, the elements of the song that had made it a hit.

In other words, Hay has respect and dignity, even if he will have somewhat less money coming in from royalties in the future.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2010/02/04/1265151942914.html

Infringement Down Under

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http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/news/2010/02/04/1265151932344.html

Infringement Down Under

Kim Arlington
February 5, 2010

MEN AT WORK made millions telling the world they came from a land Down Under. But part of the famous flute riff in their hit single came from another iconic Australian song, a judge has ruled – and it could cost the band’s songwriters and record company a fortune in royalties.

In the Federal Court yesterday, Justice Peter Jacobson found 1979 and 1981 recordings of Down Under reproduced a substantial part of the children’s folk tune Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, infringing its copyright.

Kookaburra was penned in 1934 by a Toorak school teacher, Marion Sinclair, for a Girl Guides competition. Down Under was a massive hit for Men at Work both here and overseas. It was used in Qantas advertisements and played at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.

After similarities between the songs were raised during the ABC music quiz show Spicks and Specks in 2007, Larrikin Music Publishing – which owns the copyright forKookaburra - sued songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert and EMI Music Publishing, seeking backdated royalties and a share of future profits.

The court heard that two of the four bars of Kookaburra were reproduced in Down Under’s flute riff, which was added by band member Greg Ham after the song was composed. In an affidavit, Ham admitted adding the flute line to try to inject some Australian flavour into the song.

Justice Jacobson said perhaps the clearest illustration of the objective similarity between the songs was Hay’s ”frank admission of a causal connection between the two melodies and the fact that he sang the relevant bars of Kookaburra when performing Down Under at gigs from 2002.

Larrikin is entitled to recover damages, with the case returning to court on February 25.

The executive director of the Arts Law Centre of Australia, Robyn Ayres, said it was a ”warning to creative people that they have to be really careful when they are incorporating other people’s work into their own”.

The director of the Australian Songwriters Association, Denny Burgess, thought the judgment would encourage others to sue.

”Every songwriter, to a larger or lesser degree, is influenced by pieces of music, riffs etc that they have heard before, and they are bound to come through in the songs,” he said. ”People will always pick up similarities, but it is a very subjective thing.”

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2010/02/04/1265151932344.html

Infringement Down Under

Kim Arlington
February 5, 2010

Advertisement

MEN AT WORK made millions telling the world they came from a land Down Under. But part of the famous flute riff in their hit single came from another iconic Australian song, a judge has ruled – and it could cost the band’s songwriters and record company a fortune in royalties.

In the Federal Court yesterday, Justice Peter Jacobson found 1979 and 1981 recordings of Down Under reproduced a substantial part of the children’s folk tune Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, infringing its copyright.

Kookaburra was penned in 1934 by a Toorak school teacher, Marion Sinclair, for a Girl Guides competition. Down Under was a massive hit for Men at Work both here and overseas. It was used in Qantas advertisements and played at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.

After similarities between the songs were raised during the ABC music quiz show Spicks and Specks in 2007, Larrikin Music Publishing – which owns the copyright forKookaburra - sued songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert and EMI Music Publishing, seeking backdated royalties and a share of future profits.

The court heard that two of the four bars of Kookaburra were reproduced in Down Under’s flute riff, which was added by band member Greg Ham after the song was composed. In an affidavit, Ham admitted adding the flute line to try to inject some Australian flavour into the song.

Justice Jacobson said perhaps the clearest illustration of the objective similarity between the songs was Hay’s ”frank admission of a causal connection between the two melodies and the fact that he sang the relevant bars of Kookaburra when performing Down Under at gigs from 2002.

Larrikin is entitled to recover damages, with the case returning to court on February 25.

The executive director of the Arts Law Centre of Australia, Robyn Ayres, said it was a ”warning to creative people that they have to be really careful when they are incorporating other people’s work into their own”.

The director of the Australian Songwriters Association, Denny Burgess, thought the judgment would encourage others to sue.

”Every songwriter, to a larger or lesser degree, is influenced by pieces of music, riffs etc that they have heard before, and they are bound to come through in the songs,” he said. ”People will always pick up similarities, but it is a very subjective thing.”

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2010/02/04/1265151932344.html