Monday 3 August 2009

When the Kookaburra calls, Sony and BMG can't hide behind Girl Guides

From the Herald Sun, via Gemma O'Farrell, comes news of some fascinating copyright litigation in Australia over Down Under, the 1980s smash hit for Men At Work. The song is noted for a flute riff which, according to a preliminary ruling by Federal Court judge Justice Peter Jacobson, was lifted from a children's tune, Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree, written more than 75 years ago by Toorak teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides competition. The significance of this is that the claimants in the copyright infringement action, publishers Larrikin Music, have established their title to copyright in the riff. Defendants Sony BMG Music Entertainment and EMI Songs Australia maintained that Larrikin had no title to sue since the copyright belonged to Girl Guides Victoria by virtue of the operation of the rules of a competition which Marion Sinclair's tune won.

Larrikin said it owned the copyright, having bought it in 1988. The judge agreed. Said the judge:
"I do not consider that the words in the (contract Ms Sinclair signed with the Girl Guides) are sufficient to disclose, on an objective consideration, an intention to effect an assignment of copyright".
The date of the trial of the merits of the infringement claim is not yet known.

1 comment:

iODyne said...

The court was told "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree is
a distinct and memorable Australian melody" ?

It is Welsh.
The same tune as the very very old Public Domain Welsh folk song
"Wele ti'n eistedd aderyn du?" NOT owned by Larrikin/Festival records Australia, and onto which, MarionSinclair imposed her lyric in 1932.