Did they steal from the land down under? Yep, if you believe the judge.
Colin Hay, lead singer and principal songwriter of the legendary Ausssie band Men at Work, is panning a Sydney judge's ruling that Hay and pals ripped off the popular Australian campfire tune "Kookaburra" for the Grammy-winning group's ubiquitous '80s hit, "Down Under."
"I believe what has won today is opportunistic greed, and what has suffered, is creative musical endeavor," Hay said in a statement published in the Sydney Herald Sun. "This outcome will have no real impact upon the relationship that I have with our song 'Down Under,' for we are connected forever."
So what's the beef about? And is the flute dude to blame?
The copyright-infringement suit was filed by publishing house Larrikan Music, which claimed the flute riff in "Down Under" was lifted from the 1930s-era ditty "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree."
Hay, however, argued something of a technicality. He claimed the band's flutist "unconsciously referenced" the latter song during Men at Work's live performances of "Down Under" a year before the group recorded it. He maintains that the two appropriated bars were always part of the "Down Under" arrangement and not, as the complaint states, part of the composition.
Furthermore, the frontman claims the Men at Work version is played with a reggae-influenced "feel" in a minor key, whereas "Kookaburra" is written as a "round in major.
"This difference alone creates a completely different listening experience," adds Hay
Last but not least, he argues that Sinclair herself had no qualms about the borrowed melody as she undoubtedly heard the song many times before her death in 1988.
No word how much the band will end up having to fork over to Larrikan, though it could likely end up worth millions in retroactive shared royalties dating back to 1983, when "Down Under" hit it big on the charts.
Of course, the band plans to appeal.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Feb. 25.
What does Men at Work have in common with Chris Rock? How about ending up on the wrong side of a copyright-infringement suit.