October 26, 2020

Aussie band loses appeal on ‘Down Under’ ruling

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SYDNEY (AP) — Australian rockers Men at Work on Friday 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 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 Australia’s famous bird of the same name, was written more than 70 years ago by Australian teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides competition. The song went on to become a favorite around campfires from New Zealand to Canada. 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.

 

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