Copyright hijinks in the land Down Under

The song Kookabura, which Down Under is allegedly a copy of, was originally written for the Girl Guides

By Todd Harrison

On Thursday February 4th, 2010

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It’s hardly Business as Usual these days for the band Men at Work.

A Globe story we linked to in this morning’s Court Reporter tells the tale of how the 80s group is being accused of sneaking the melody from the children’s tune “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” into the #1 hit song “Down Under.”

If you’re singing both songs to yourself and wondering how this is even possible, check out the mashed-up comparison in the video embedded above. (It starts at 0:44, after some preamble on the case.) As the video demonstrates, the part of “Down Under” that’s zeroed in on in this claim is not the hook, nor the verse melody. It’s the instrumental break.

Can this whole thing be chalked up to karmic payback for putting a flute solo in a pop song, then? If so, the “payback” could end up being substantial; the band and its label, EMI, are now in mediation with the holders of the copyright on “Kookabura,” who are said to be requesting up to 60 percent of the money “Down Under,” which was first released in 1981. That would mean that Men at Work could be on the hook for millions.

Both sides will be back in court on February 25.