Death Announcement: Music Originality

Very famous song by Alice Cooper. A favourite when it comes to covers. You may have heard Groove Coverage’s trance cover, or Tarja Turunen’s symphonic metal version or maybe even the bluegrass cover by Hayseed Dixie or the cover by South African singer Nicholis Louw…you may have even seen the cover that was used in a Volkswagon Passat add in Israel!

In this situation it isn’t copyright that is the issue the hand. It is the lack of originality. Of all the cover’s, I think the only one that shows thought having been put into the script is the Israeli commercial. It can be understood that cover’s are just cover’s, but surely artists could change the sound and structure to make it a more personal account.

In 2009, Australian band Men At Work were sued by Larrikin Music for copyright infringement, alleging that part of the flute riff from “down Under” was copied from iconic Australian children’s rhyme “Kookaburra”. “Kookaburra” was written in 1935 by Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides competition. Sinclair died in 1988, and the rights to “Kookaburra” were transferred to publisher Larrikin Music on March 21, 1990.

On February 4th, 2010, Justice Jacobson ruled that Larrikin’s copyright had been infringed as “Down Under” reproduced “a substantial part of Kookaburra“.

On July 6th 2010, Justice Jacobson passed the decision that Larrikin would receive 5% of the royalties. In October 2011, the band lost its final court bid when the high court of Australia refused to hear an appeal.

This case of infringement came as a shock to not only Australians, but many people worldwide.

With the rise of remix culture are there going to be more incidents like that of Men at Works? Even 30 years later?


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