The unpredictable nature of plagiarism cases was proved again when it was ruled that Men at Work would have to pay out between 40-60% of earnings from their anthemic comedy song, “Down Under”. The case was brought by the music company Larrikin, which bought the rights to the Australian scout song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree”, composed in the thirties. They claim the flute solo in “Down Under” plagiarised their copyright. Given that a song is a combination of the melody and the words, I was surprised they were claiming part of the copyright for what is in fact part of the arrangement – although I’m not a legal expert and it looks as though the court felt otherwise. The ruling notes that the riff “feels different”, which is quite an understatement. Apparently, the song was originally composed without the riff. But the ruling stands.
For those with a legal mind, you can read the ruling here.