Down Under by Men at WorkYouTube Video
The Song - Down Under
Down Under (also known as Land Down Under) was a blockbuster hit for the Australian band Men at Work. The song was written by the co-founders of the band Colin Hay and Ron Strykert and went largely unnoticed when it was first released. In October 1981 the song was re-released after it had been reworked with a flute solo by Greg Ham. This version was a smash hit, selling over 30 million albums world-wide.
Copyright Infringement Was The Flute Riff Plagiarised?
This song was recently involved in a major court case. The legal episode started in 2008 when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV show Spicks & Specks asked the question "What children's song is contained in the song Down Under?" The answer supplied was the Kookaburra Song. Only becoming aware of the similarity when raised by the TV show, Norman Lurie, the managing director of Larrikin Music, which had acquired the copyright for the song in 1988, launched the legal action claiming copyright infringements – namely plagiarism.
Comparison of Kookaburra Riff Listen for Yourself and Decide
The first tune is the flute riff from Down Under and the second is from the Kookaburra Song.
Greg Ham acknowledged that he may have heard the Kookaburra song as a young child. He also admitted that he didn't realise that his riff was from the Kookaburra Song until about ten years after the song was released. The court accepted his explanation. Greg was an accomplished musician playing the saxophone, keyboards, flute and harmonica as well as singing for the band. The court case deeply troubled him. In an interview he said ''I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered - for copying something.'' Greg Ham died of a heart attack at the age of 58 in 2012. Some claim that the outcome of the court case contributed to his ill-health and untimely death.
On 6 July 2010, the court ruled that the flute riff in the song Down Under was indeed a copyright infringement as "Down Under reproduced a substantial part of Kookaburra". The band was ordered to pay royalties backdated to 2002 and future royalties at the rate of 5% to Larrikin Music. (It should be noted that Larrikin was acting within the law in trying to protect its copyright). Because of the negative publicity generated by the court case Larrikin Music, in 2014, changed its name to Happy as Larry.
All Rights Reserved. (Last Updated: Feb18, 2022)