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Riff Offs: Damages Awarded in Rift Over 'Kookaburra' Flute Riff


As you already know, in February 2010, Australian Federal Court judge Peter Jacobsen ruled that the famous flute riff in Men at Work's "Down Under" plagiarized a popular nursery rhyme about a kookaburra written in 1932. The nursery rhyme is called "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree," and, as you can hear for yourself, the Men at Work song pretty clearly borrows the riff.

Larrikin Publishing, the copyright holder of the "Kookaburra" song, requested 40 to 60 percent of the royalties earned by "Down Under" in Australia during the last six years, but the question of damages was not resolved until last week. On July 6, Entertainment & Media Law Signal reports, the judge ruled that Men at Work's recording company, EMI Songs Australia, and songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, must pay Larrikin  just 5 percent of royalties earned from "Down Under" since 2002 and from its future earnings.

The E&MLS blog also has a link to JAMSBIO's great list of 10 other "riff offs," i.e., songs that sound suspiciously like other songs. Some of my favorites (hear the audio for yourself on the JAMSBIO website):

  • “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons and “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison
  • “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by The Rubinoos and “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne
  • “All Day and All of the Night” by The Kinks and “Hello, I Love You” by The Doors

And from the comments to the JAMSBIO post:

  • "Lady Madonna" by the Beatles and "What I Got" by Sublime

Posted by Bruce Carton on July 14, 2010 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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