Australian rockers Men At Work were Tuesday ordered to pay five percent of profits from iconic hit “Down Under” for ripping off Girl Guide ditty “Kookaburra”, escaping much heavier compensation.
Judge Peter Jacobson rejected a request from Larrikin Music that the band and their record label should pay up to 60 percent of proceeds from the 1981 pub anthem.
Men At Work were found guilty in February of plagiarising “Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree”, whose rights are owned by Larrikin, by copying its opening bars in a flute riff.
“I accept that ‘Down Under’ is an affectionate celebration and a witty commentary on some of the icons of Australian popular culture,” Jacobson told the Federal Court in Sydney.
“But… there are numerous references to other icons throughout the song. A balanced view of the contribution that the two bars of ‘Kookaburra’ make to the overall theme of the 1981 recording must be seen as quite low.”
The compensation, dating back only to 2002 under Australian copyright rules, is estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars rather than the millions, according to media reports.
Down Under, an unofficial Australian theme and jukebox staple worldwide, sold millions of copies across the globe and was also the theme tune for the victorious 1983 Australian team in yachting’s America’s Cup.
The song, which featured at the close of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, pays tribute to Vegemite sandwiches and a land where “beer does flow and men chunder (vomit)”.