Men at Work Didn’t Do All Their Own Work, Judge Rules

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Men Down Under Jumping Around In the DesertAn Australian judge has ruled that the group Men at Work plagiarized the flute riff in the song "Down Under" from a children's song written in 1932.  The ruling means that the Men will have to pay royalties, although the amount has not been set and will apparently depend on the judge's evaluation of the role that the plagiarized material plays in the completed work.

Larrikin Publishing has owned the rights to "Kookaburra Sits In the Old Gum Tree" since 1990, but apparently did not make the connection to "Down Under" until 2007, and then only because it came up on a game show.  The company is seeking 40 to 60 percent of the royalties earned in Australia during the limitations period (the past six years).

The riff was apparently inserted by new band member Greg Ham into a song originally written by founder Colin Hay.  The resulting composition hit No. 1 in many countries, including the U.S., in the early 1980s.  Ham admitted in court that he had heard "Kookaburra" while growing up and was "pretty sure" it had been in his school's song book.  The judge seems to have found that Ham intentionally borrowed from it but that Hay didn't know about the copying until more recently.

There is vastly more information on Wikipedia about Men at Work than you would ever need, the most interesting fact to me being that there are at least eight "greatest hits" compilations featuring the work of a band that only released three studio albums.  That's six more compilations than we got from Dexy's Midnight Runners for the same number of albums, so make of that what you will.

Sorry – for some reason, for me any mention of Men at Work also dredges up a memory of Dexy's Midnight Runners, a very painful process that I apologize for possibly triggering in you as well.  But now that Men at Work has been tried and found guilty, maybe Dexy's Midnight Runners will finally face a war crimes tribunal for "Come on Eileen."  Then that ghost may finally be put to rest.

Link: CNN
Link: Legal Blog Watch