Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You better run, you better take cover...from copyright laws!

An Australian court recently issued one of the dumbest copyright rulings I've seen in some time.

According to this court, the flute solo of the Men At Work song "Down Under" wrongly copied the 76-year-old folk song "Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree." Because of this, Men At Work is forced to pay 60% of the royalties from "Down Under" to Larrikin Music, which claims to own the "Kookaburra" copyright.

Larrikin Music is a bunch of pirates. "Kookaburra" was written by Marion Sinclair, but she chose never to sue Men At Work. When Sinclair died, Larrikin claimed they owned the rights to "Kookaburra" and filed the suit.

This despite the fact that, upon Sinclair's death, the copyright was actually supposed to go to the Girl Guides Association (a scouting group) - not Larrikin. That was stated in the contract when "Kookaburra" was written.

How does a corporation like Larrikin manage to claim copyright on a song they had nothing to do with? How are they able to sue after the song's writer declined to take such action?

Aren't works that were made 76 years ago supposed to be in the public domain anyway? I'd suspect they would be under American laws, but what about Australian laws?

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