Music

Men at Work lost in court

Men at Work is an Australian rock band which achieved international success in the 1980s. They are the only Australian artists to have a #1 album and single simultaneously in the United States (with Business as Usual and “Down Under” respectively). At the same time, they also had a simultaneous #1 single and album in the United Kingdom.

It was about their world famous song “Down Under” that was accused of being a plagiarism of a popular kids song in Australia. The original song was written by Marion Sinclair in 1934 for a performance at a Girl Guides Jamboree in 1935. Sinclair died in 1988.

Altough the composer of the song never said anything about the similarities of the songs the owners of the copyright, Larrikin Music, started the lawsuit. Larrikin Music, which is owned by London’s Music Sales Group, bought the rights to the classic folk song in 1990.

Men at Work that lost the case and will have to pay an undetermined amount but according to the Larrikin Lawyers it could reach 60% of income from the song, declared that “It’s all about money, make no mistake,”.

The song that was number one on American, British, and Australian charts. It has become a popular and patriotic song in Australia and it was used in the closing ceremony of the Olympic games in 2000.
Norm Lurie, owner of Larrikin Music, respond to accusations that he followed through mostly for: “the importance of checking before using other people’s copyrights.”

According to Men at Work’s Colin Hay, “It is no surprise that in more than 20 years, no one noticed the reference to Kookaburra,” he added that “Marion Sinclair herself never made any claim that we had appropriated any part of her song Kookabura… Apparently Marion Sinclair didn’t notice either.”

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