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03 February 2010

Stupidest copyright ruling ever. Apparently a part of the flute riff in Down Under has been ruled to be a rip off of "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree". I have re-listened, and can certainly identify the TEN NOTES ON ONE INSTRUMENT in the whole song that may have been lifted, and it pisses me off. It's an homage, you greedy lawyer-type bastards (and one that I'd never noticed until today). Grrrrr. [More:]

It's unAustralian, I tell you (yes, I realise that the word 'unaustralian' is unaustralian... that's sort of the beauty of it).
oops... forgot the MI tag...
posted by pompomtom 03 February | 22:10
I heard an NPR story on this. You can hardly argue with it - but isn't it the standard that's nutty? I mean, I believe in protecting original work. But is there really an argument that a new iteration which draws on a pre-existing work is preventing an earlier creator from profiting, ever? Is listening to "Down Under" really going to prevent someone from paying royalties to the author of "Kookaburra"?

"Happy Birthday" is a copyrighted song. When I learned that fact, I also learned that that is the reason why chain restaurant staff always sing some really dumb alternate birthday song to you - because if they sang the actual birthday song, they'd be required to pay untold amounts of royalties to the copyright owners, based upon the number of renditions of "Happy Birthday" sung in all their outlets on all the days of the year.

It's become extreme. Copyright is extending too long and being used in ways that hurt the development of culture and the arts.
posted by Miko 03 February | 23:16
WTF. This is ... yeah, unaustralian! What a farce.
posted by goshling 03 February | 23:17
you greedy lawyer-type bastards

It's their clients that decide to sue. Why doesn't anyone ever call the plaintiff a greedy bastard?
posted by amro 03 February | 23:37
Actually, I meant that to refer to the people who decided to sue. I have no particular beef with the barristers involved, except that they might've said "Oh, come off it" at an appropriate juncture.

My apologies to any lawyers (or, indeed, others) who may have been offended.
posted by pompomtom 04 February | 00:17
20 years later? WTH.
posted by gomichild 04 February | 00:43
They still must hold a hearing to determine damages. If any.
posted by Ardiril 04 February | 00:45
Wow. Let's take this its logical conclusion, please. Everyone who's ever heard this song should pay up, now.
posted by treepour 04 February | 01:00
Yeah, this is a stupid, insane, ridiculous decision. Especially so when you consider that the 'offending' song has been out for over 20 years. Convenient how they waited until the song had earned squillions before suing. I bet they wouldn't be so offended if the song had been a flop.
posted by dg 04 February | 06:32
I remember reading that if you own a copyright you're compelled to defend that copyright whenever a potential violation of use comes up even if you don't particularly care about that potential violation? - because if you don't, you may lose the copyright altogether since you didn't adequately defend it?

I note that the copyright owners did not sue until it was made public on a TV show fairly recently that "Down Under" used a piece of "Kookaburra". Their lawyers may well have said, if you don't sue to defend this now, you will risk losing the copyright.
posted by flex 04 February | 09:31
I have to say that the very first time I ever heard "Down Under" I thought of "Kookaburra".
posted by essexjan 04 February | 13:37
if you don't, you may lose the copyright altogether since you didn't adequately defend it?

I don't know anything about Australian law, but that's not generally the case here in the US.

The confusion may arise because that is the case with trademark law, which protects brand names rather than creative works. If people use a brand name to refer generically to any similar products, the company can lose TM protection--see, e.g., aspirin, escalator, trampoline & zipper, all of which used to be trademarked brand names.
posted by fogovonslack 04 February | 16:37
You can lose a trademark. You cannot lose a copyright.

Convenient how they waited until the song had earned squillions before suing.

They're actually [as I understand it] only entitled to (the assigned share of) the last six years of earnings, and then only to the original Men At Work recording, not any other version of the song.

I don't think it's that ridiculous -- I'm with ej here, I always thought it was intentional (and in the 80s I had no idea it was a song that was still in copyright then, let alone now).

I have little problem with the original author earning something for her work, but this money is going to a rent-seeking Megacorp. It's nothing but an intellectual "property".
posted by dhartung 04 February | 18:47
Yeah, my point was that they wouldn't care if the song had been a flop and made no money. I know that's a specious argument to some extent, but it's the same principle as your last paragraph - this is not a case of rewarding someone for their creative efforts, it's about a company getting a return on its investment, which is not what the intent of copyright ever was.
posted by dg 05 February | 20:26
The song you're afraid you'll be caught singing aloud || This is fun.