There’s no guarantee that the leeches who are suing the band Men At Work for royalties over the part of their 1981 hit Down Under that references the 1934 children’s ditty “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” will have any success at all – but that they even think it’s arguable is disturbing in and of itself. What is the purpose of music copyright? It’s a monopoly granted by the government purely to encourage the creation and recording of musical works. Is the prospect of a reference to your song being included in a pop hit 48 years later really a disincentive to create – or is it actually something most artists would quite like to see? I suspect Ms Sinclair, if she was still alive, would’ve been chuffed to hear her work heard around the world that way.
If this interpretation of the Copyright Act 1968 were accepted, the result would simply be that modern bands would be warned off referencing parts of Australian culture, for fear of being sued. I’ve always thought it was a nice homage to the Kookaburra song that Men at Work included; but it wasn’t vital. If anyone had thought it problemmatic – and, note, it’s taken this “Larrikin” mob more than TWENTY FIVE YEARS to sue over it – then they’d simply never have included it.
Who gains from that? What on Earth is the point of copyright laws that could be interpreted so broadly, and over such an unnecessarily long period?
The Act should make such a suit impossible – both on the grounds of time (it’s seventy five years since the song was published!) and on the grounds of fair use (a short reference is not a reproduction of a song). You know why it doesn’t.