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Copyright Law

Court Says ‘Down Under’ Hit from 1980s Copied ‘Kookaburra’

Posted Feb 4, 2010 9:56 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An Australian judge has ruled the 1980s song “Down Under” by the band Men at Work copies a song written more than 70 years ago, "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.”

Federal Court Justice Peter Jacobson said the flute melody in the Men at Work song “replicates in material form a substantial part” of the Kookaburra song, the Associated Press reports. Kookaburra is a campfire favorite written by an Australian teacher for a Girl Guides competition.

A publishing company now owns the copyright. It is seeking 40 percent to 60 percent of the royalties earned by the song in Australia during the last six years, the time limit imposed by Australian law, CNN reports.

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