The judge who ruled in February that Men at Work wrongfully copied part of its 1980s hit "Down Under" ruled this week that the group would have to pay the copyright holder five percent of all royalties earned on the song since 2002. It's not clear yet how much that might be, but it is a lot less than the 60 percent Larrikin Music had demanded, a ridiculous number that the court called "overreaching."
Larrikin argued that the flute riff in the song was copied in part from a children's song called "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree," which was written in the 1930s. The judge agreed, and then set to work evaluating "the significance of the bars of 'Kookaburra' to the overall musical qualities of 'Down Under.'" I don't even want to think about how many times he must have listened to those songs since February trying to figure that out, but if you want to give it a shot you can hear excerpts from both songs here.
So far there has been no determination of how much money would be involved if the rulings hold up on appeal, but one report said a "music industry source" estimated that the song has earned about $14 million ($750,000 a year) in royalties, and if that's true then Men at Work would owe somewhere around $225,000 plus $37,000 a year going forward.
If they are still making that much money in royalties from "Down Under," I guess they can afford to compensate me for the mental anguish that song has caused me over the years. Dexy's Midnight Runners and The Romantics are going to have to cough up some cash, too.