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Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

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Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Old 02-04-10, 08:41 PM
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Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Allegations of plagiarism in the music business are nothing new--not even a Beatle, George Harrison, was safe from such charges, and everyone from Coldplay to Larry "Pants On The Ground" Platt has been accused of artistic thievery. The latest artist to face the music, to speak, is '80s Australian band Men At Work, and in this particular case, a judge has quite shockingly ruled against the band. Apparently this judge thinks Men At Work weren't working hard enough when coming up with original ideas for their biggest and most iconic hit, "Down Under."

This week Australian Federal Court judge Peter Jacobson ruled that the flute passage in Men At Work's popular new wave ode to life in the lower hemisphere bears a distinctive resemblance to "Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree," an Aussie children's folk tune written 75 years ago by schoolteacher teacher Marion Sinclair. "I have come to the view that the flute riff in 'Down Under' in the 1979 recording and 1981 recording infringes on the copyright of 'Kookaburra,' because it replicates in material form a substantial part of Ms. Sinclair's 1935 work," stated the judge.

Music company Larrikin, which acquired the rights to "Kookaburra" nearly two decades ago, filed the suit after hearing a snippet of "Down Under" played on an Australian quiz show last year. And now, after this week's ruling, Larrikin stands to collect a substantial amount of royalties (somewhere between 40 and 60 percent) from Men At Work, "Down Under" songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, and record labels Sony BMG and EMI.

"It's a big win for the underdog," Larrikin's lawyer Adam Simpson told Australian reporters--although, sadly, Marion Sinclair will not be seeing any of that money (she passed away long ago), and neither will any of her heirs, since the song's rights were sold to Larrikin in 1990 after Sinclair's death.

After the surprising ruling, Men At Work singer and songwriter Colin Hay published a lengthy and very emotional statement in Australia's Herald Sun. "The copyright of 'Kookaburra' is owned and controlled by Larrikin Music Publishing, more specifically by a man named Norm Lurie. Larrikin Music Publishing is owned by a multi-national corporation called Music Sales. I only mention this as Mr. Lurie is always banging on about how he's the underdog, the little guy. Yet, he is part of a multi-national corporation just like EMI Music Publishing. It's all about money, make no mistake," he wrote.

You know, Colin has a point.

"It is indeed true, that Greg Ham (not a writer of the song) unconsciously referenced two bars of 'Kookaburra' on the flute, during live shows after he joined the band in 1979, and it did end up in the Men At Work recording," Hay conceded. "When Men At Work released the song 'Down Under' through CBS Records (now Sony Music), in 1982, it became extremely successful. It was, and continues to be, played literally millions of times all over the world, and it is no surprise that in over 20 years, no one noticed the reference to 'Kookaburra.'"

Well, Colin certainly has a point, there, too.

"Mr. Lurie claims to care only about protecting the copyright of Marion Sinclair, who sadly has passed away. I don't believe him. It may well be noted, that Marion Sinclair herself never made any claim that we had appropriated any part of her song 'Kookaburra,' and she wrote it, and was most definitely alive, when Men At Work's version of 'Down Under' was a big hit. Apparently she didn't notice either."

Again, Colin makes a good point.

Colin Hay makes many other good points, actually; his full statement can be read at http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/men...-1225826917098.



Here's another video that plays both the original passage in question, and the supposed infringing segment from "Down Under".

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Old 02-04-10, 08:52 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

This is completely ridiculous. The kids song sounds like a generic track while the Men at Work song sounds like generic 80's music.
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Old 02-04-10, 09:08 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Buy up the rights to a bunch of music, hear a decades old song that has a passage that sounds similar to one in your catalog, sue the musicians, rob them blind, and declare yourself some kind of hero for the little guy!

Is it any surprise that everyone fucking hates the music industry?
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Old 02-04-10, 09:44 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

If that short little snippet of music is the actual one in question, I'm shocked a judge upheld that. Regardless of what Colin Hay more or less "admitted" to, a few notes being played in a certain sequence surely can't be considered ripping someone off.
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Old 02-04-10, 10:00 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

It's a hugely bullshit decision. Hopefully it'll be overturned. Always had a soft spot for these guys. Love how it took 30 years to file the suit too, by people who aren't even the ones who were "plagiarized."
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Old 02-04-10, 10:00 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

"Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree" is a well-known song associated with Australia, and it's obvious to me it's usage was intentional. No doubt they used it thinking it was in the public domain and they were safe from being sued.

What's ridiculous is that the people suing had nothing to do with the writer of the song. It's not even her family. It's some corporation that bought the rights.
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Old 02-04-10, 10:22 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

So Jimmy Hart Versions aren't allowed in Oz?
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Old 02-04-10, 10:34 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Easy: leave Australia, don't pay.
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Old 02-04-10, 11:07 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Originally Posted by Groucho View Post
"Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree" is a well-known song associated with Australia, and it's obvious to me it's usage was intentional. No doubt they used it thinking it was in the public domain and they were safe from being sued.
It sounds to me like Greg Ham, who didn't get writing credits, just threw it in there before they laid it down. Even if he was throwing it in there intentionally, is that miniscule amount of music really worth suing over?
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Old 02-04-10, 11:50 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Originally Posted by Sean O'Hara View Post
So Jimmy Hart Versions aren't allowed in Oz?


I remember Diamond Dallas Page getting ripoff Smell Like Teen Spirit, but Chris Jericho only getting Generic NBA tune #5 for entrance music. Then Hogan using the Hendricks song and cruiserweights using porn sounding theme songs.
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Old 02-05-10, 04:20 AM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

How do you sue someone over a song, that you bought the rights to years *after* they wrote it?
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Old 02-05-10, 06:11 AM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

11 notes. The whole thing is 11 notes.
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Old 02-05-10, 06:39 AM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

I hope he followed up this statement:
"I have come to the view that the flute riff in 'Down Under' in the 1979 recording and 1981 recording infringes on the copyright of 'Kookaburra,' because it replicates in material form a substantial part of Ms. Sinclair's 1935 work," stated the judge.
with something like "As for damages, it's clear that not even in a crazy hypothetical way has 'Down Under' hurt the value of Ms. Sinclair's work, and as such, yous idiots gets no moneys."
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Old 02-05-10, 03:36 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

There are so many more overt sound-a-like versions in recent popular songs... Theory of a Deadman's "Bad Girlfriend" intro from The Cult's "Fire Woman" or Boys Like Girls' "Love Drunk" chorus from The Killers' "Somebody Told Me".
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Old 02-05-10, 05:18 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Originally Posted by dx23 View Post


I remember Diamond Dallas Page getting ripoff Smell Like Teen Spirit, but Chris Jericho only getting Generic NBA tune #5 for entrance music. Then Hogan using the Hendricks song and cruiserweights using porn sounding theme songs.
Actually, "Basketball Highlights #5" was an instrumental of "All the Days" by Mammoth.

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Old 02-05-10, 05:23 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

total bullshit indeed
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Old 02-05-10, 07:56 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Originally Posted by The Infidel View Post
... is that miniscule amount of music really worth suing over?
It is. Assuming that you can find some moron judge who'll agree, and will give you 40 and 60 percent of the royalties to a hit song...
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Old 02-05-10, 10:07 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Originally Posted by MGR View Post
It is. Assuming that you can find some moron judge who'll agree, and will give you 40 and 60 percent of the royalties to a hit song...
Ask The Verve about that sometime...
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Old 02-05-10, 10:42 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post
Ask The Verve about that sometime...
Didn't the Verve ripoff the original recording and use it through the entire song, not just record their own version of the tune?
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Old 02-06-10, 11:59 AM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

If this is upheld, how much will Men At Work have to pay?

And I agree that this is very silly, but I don't know anything about Australian copyright law. Or even if it a violation of the copyright.
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Old 02-06-10, 12:17 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

"Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree" is a well-known song associated with Australia, and it's obvious to me it's usage was intentional. No doubt they used it thinking it was in the public domain and they were safe from being sued.

What's ridiculous is that the people suing had nothing to do with the writer of the song. It's not even her family. It's some corporation that bought the rights.
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Old 02-06-10, 03:10 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Originally Posted by Sean O'Hara View Post
Didn't the Verve ripoff the original recording and use it through the entire song, not just record their own version of the tune?
I believe so. They got off easy, keeping all current profits from the single, with all future profits going to Jagger and Richards. They were also given the option of removing the album from stores and re-releasing it sans the song.
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Old 02-06-10, 06:42 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

The fact that the 'infringed' didn't say anything for 30 years should mean the damages are negligible IMO. I hope it's being appealed. You could replace the flute part and not really change the composition at all, it's far from essential. (If you played the song on acoustic guitar and vocals, or piano and vocals, that part wouldn't even be represented at all, and the song would be intact.)
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Old 02-06-10, 07:32 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

Originally Posted by The Infidel View Post
"It was, and continues to be, played literally millions of times all over the world, and it is no surprise that in over 20 years, no one noticed the reference to 'Kookaburra.'"
I will say that when I was in 3rd grade, my music teacher taught our class "Kookaburra," then played "Down Under," specifically pointing out the reference to the former song in the latter song. So it has been noticed before.

Also, Colin Hay rerecorded the song twice on his solo album "Man at Work". In both versions, the "Kookaburra" reference is maintained in the arrangements.

Here's an acoustic version:


That said, I really don't think that the copyright owner is owed 40-60% of the profits from the song, especially from the songwriting royalties. He's maybe due a much smaller percentage, say 2-5%, due to the song being referenced or "sampled", but even that may be stretching it.
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Old 02-06-10, 07:41 PM
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Re: Nearly 30 yrs later, Men At Work guilty of plagiarism!?!

^That preview doesn't work for me, but I doubt it's just one acoustic guitar and a vocal if it has that part represented. Apples and oranges.
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