Men At Work have lost a copyright battle over the flute lines from their 80s smash single "Down Under". The flute sections of the song are, apparently, too similar to an old Australian children's song called "Kookabura Sits in the Old Gum Tree" and the band's main composers, Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, as well as lead flautist Greg Ham have been ordered by an Australian court to pay five percent of the accrued royalties of the song to Larrikin Music Publishers who own the rights to "Kookabura". The case has some people, including Ham, a little riled up about the state of the music industry.
In defense of his Kookaburaian flute line, Ham told Australia's The Age "I was looking for something Australiana...Music's always been about referring to what's already in our culture". He worries that "musicians are unaware of their rights" and that excessive copyright finagling can kill creativity and freshness within the industry. While not unique, the case certainly raises some old questions about the legality of sampling, unintentional plagiarism, etc.
Check out the clip below from an Australian news program that discusses the case and interviews some industry guys about the ruling. -ben krusling