Music and copyright

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mr friendly guy
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Music and copyright

Postby mr friendly guy » 2011-11-08 11:03am

I have a question about music and copyright. Recently Australian band Men at Work lost a case because around 30 seconds of their song "Down under" had a flute melody from the classic kids song Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree. ... ose-appeal

Men at Work lose appeal over Kookaburra riff

Court rejects band's appeal against earlier ruling that the group had taken the flute melody of the hit Down Under from the song

The Australian band Men at Work have lost their final court bid to prove they did not steal the distinctive flute riff of their 1980s hit Down Under from a children's campfire song.

The high court of Australia denied the band's bid to appeal a federal court judge's earlier ruling that the group had copied the signature flute melody of Down Under from the song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.

Kookaburra, a song about Australia's famous bird of the same name, was written more than 70 years ago by Australian teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides competition. The song went on to become a favourite around campfires from New Zealand to Canada. Sinclair died in 1988, but publishing company Larrikin Music which now holds the copyright for Kookaburra filed a lawsuit in 2009.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the Down Under flute riff replicated a substantial part of Sinclair's song. The judge later ordered Men at Work's recording company, EMI Songs Australia, and songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert to pay 5% of royalties earned from the song since 2002 and from its future earnings.

Lawyers for Men at Work's recording companies maintained the band hadn't copied anything, but Friday's court decision ends the band's chance to appeal.

Here is the clip in question comparing the parts in each song.

Now it got me thinking, if that mere 30 seconds of the song can be the subject of the lawsuit, what else could be? Presumably though, parodies would still be protected under "fair use", but what isn't? Consider this more blatant example below.

This song is from Australian boy band North. Haven't heard of them. Thats ok, neither have I. :D

Now the composition sounds strangely familiar. Of course if you don't recognise it, don't worry, because the original song was in Mandarin.

And before someone nitpicks, yes the video link isn't the original version because its been re sung by various artists and unfortunately I am unable to find the original version. However apparently the copyright is owned by someone, and its inspired various artists in Asia to sing their own version in differing languages. Using the North example, the composition clearly was more than those few seconds "Down Under" used from Kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree.

So basically, at what point is it violating copyright?
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