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Wombat Walking Round The Old Billabong

Rory sums up the Men At Work/Kookaburra case:

Men at Work have just lost a case brought by Larrikin Music, a song publisher who bought the copyright of Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree from the Australian Girl Guides in 1990 and in July 2009 claimed that the flute riff in Down Under plagiarised it. Colin Hay and Ron Strykert are now facing a payout of up to sixty percent of their writers’ earnings from the song, depending on the judge's final ruling.

If a court has deemed that Men at Work ripped off the Kookaburra song, then by that precedent surely Noel Gallagher should be executed for crimes against The Beatles?

I'm no Men At Work fan but look upon them fondly as they make me think of my friend Peita. We once had an assignment in journalism class to write an obituary for a person who wasn't actually dead yet and she chose Colin Hay. She wasn't a fan either and I wish I could remember why she chose him… deadline panic? Ever since when I heard Down Under on the radio I'd think isn't it a shame about Colin Hay for a few seconds, before remembering he wasn't actually dead. But if he WAS he would be spinning in his grave right now over this Kookaburra shit.

"Do you think the lawyers will go after all your other music legends now?" asked Dr G, renowned Australian cultural commentator, "Will Midnight Oil get sued for plagarising Wombat Walking Round The Old Billabong? Or Galah Flying Round The Old Wagga Wagga Train Track?"

Downunder

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


13 thoughts on “Wombat Walking Round The Old Billabong

  1. Dad showed me this on the news last night.

    All I could think was, “But the two pieces of music are nothing alike!”

    And how greedy is up to 60% of the writer’s earnings? The riff doesn’t even take up that much of the song. It’s one of things that made me go, “WTF?!”

  2. It’s outrageous, isn’t it? I didn’t think they sounded alike either, but I can hear it now, but it definitely seems like coincidence. I can’t believe it’s actually gone to court. Particularly after all these years. Tsk.

  3. The whole thing is ridiculous but somewhat funny…

    The reason they may be entitled to so much is because of the percentage of the original song they used…it’s only 4 odd lines long!

  4. ‘Down Under’ has been in front of my mind lately, working on a kids publication about Australian national songs. Try bloody explaining the words to Down Under to eight year olds! It’s all about being totally mongered. Now it’s about being mongered and THIEVES. Which is what many Australian national songs are about, I’m finding.

    Poor Colin Hay, though.

    In the obit, did your friend Pieta mention his wonky eye?

    Colin Hay! Oh Colin Hay!
    Your wonky eye
    It goes astray

  5. It is a stupid decision especially since it has taken 20+ years to actually even notice it!!!

    I am sure if every song was picked apart there would be a riff that appears in some other song somewhere.

  6. Poor wonky-eyed Colin! I’d almost forgotten about my obit on Colin Hay. Isn’t his record company called Lazy Eye Records? Hehe! Poor guy must shudder when he hears a Kookaburra singing in an old gum tree.

  7. Yeah, it’s crap, un-Australian crap is what it is. No-one ever noticed that, and even if the riff was intentionally taken, Down Under is an anthem of sorts, they should have bought the Kookaburra rights being proud that’s it’s permeated the culture so much, not to make nasty money from it. Bloody greedy if you ask moi.

    On another note, what kinda voodoo hexing witchcraft school teachers did you have? Making you write obituaries for the living! hehehe

  8. the stupidest thing about it all is that no one technically held the copyright for the song when down under was released. it was picked up by the company something like 5 years later.

    hopefully they’ll get off on that on appeal, but i sadly doubt it.

  9. @random – that struck me as odd too, can you really claim retrospectively!? greedy feckers.

    @flossy-p – i know! so morbid isn’t it? i wrote mine about Tim Winton and worried he’d get hit by a bus. it was quite hard work writing them though – wikipedia was in its infancy back then 😉

  10. Bah. Utter rubbish. It’s practically the national anthem – how dare anyone challenge it?

    Can’t see the resemblence myself. (HATED “Kookaburra” by the way, had a sadistic teacher who made us sing it in the round eleventy-billion times).

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