Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Kookaburra is still sitting

from w
More about that silly legalistic tangle about copyright. The writer of the little kids' song, from a teacher in a Girl Guide competition 70 years ago, actually plagiarised the tune from a Welsh folk song and even the words have a correspondence - instead of a kookaburra, a blackbird sings. I think they should award damages of $6000 to Larrikin on condition that the money is given onward to the Girl Guides and Scouts or even to a Welsh music society!

from Wikipedia:
"Kookaburra" is sung to the same tune as the Welsh folk song "Wele ti'n eistedd aderyn du?" or "Dacw di yn eistedd, y 'deryn du" (Rough English translation "See you there, that black bird sitting.

From comments on the internet starting from an item in the CourierMail.

As an Australian performer and composer I feel that this decision marks Australia's steady and unstoppable plunge into a creative dark age. If this type of legal BS is allowed to continue, I fear that we will all have to continually censor every creative thought in case there's a few phrases that sound similar to something else. The classic Australian song "The pub with no beer" and the similarities to "Beautiful Dreamer","Music of the night" and "School Days"...where does it stop? Even" O Sole Mio" can't be freely used now because a judge awarded the rights to the composers living relatives, (it was written in the 19th Century) and is now in copyright until 2042! I remember a television commercial that I scored some music for and I used a trumpet playing 3 chromatically ascending minims before the saxes came in. We were told that we were not allowed to use it because it sounded too much like the opening to the Artie Shaw version of "Stardust"! This type of madness was abound even in the 1990's! Australian musical creativity and freedom of compositional expression has been dealt a very heavy blow today and I am very concerned that this will open the flood gates to composers being constantly open to litigation.

I guess the only thing to do now is to be very careful (as composers) about who we sign our publishing rights to and to make sure that our wills are crystal clear in the matter of what can and can not be done with copyrights to our compositions after our deaths.

Back to the case though: Yes, it is the first part of the welsh melody Dacw ti yn eistedd, y 'deryn du . Larrikin are lucky that this song is public domain otherwise the shoe could have been on a much bigger foot! I really don't think that the Kookaburra riff would have made any significant difference to the appeal of the "Down Under" song and for that reason, I think that the decision is based purely on the ability to turn a profit out of an original and clever Australian song (Land Down Under, that is). It really is a very sad day for Australian musicians and composers. I guess if we quote anything else during an improvisation, we'll get sued now. Perhaps we'll need to go through all live performances and check every note for possible melodic violations? So what happens now? We digitally edit part of any solo out that could be deemed risky and the buying public will miss out on the original performance as it was played. The implications of this ridiculous decision today are very far-reaching indeed.

Pandora's box could seem like a Christmas cracker in comparison to this one if the lawyers and publishers get the scent of money in their blood.
We do indeed live in scary times!

Posted by: Andy Firth 9:59pm February 04, 2010

"Laugh Kookaburra, Laugh Kookaburra, Gay your life must be" As a child of the 60's who was forced to sing this song everyday at primary school. I feel like I've been psychologically raped by its hidden message depicting homosexuals as stupid creatures perched in trees.. Do yah reckon that would fly in court ?

Posted by: Nifty of Brisbane 12:05pm February 04, 2010

This decision would definitely make one "chunder"!!

Posted by: Baldrick of New Farm 12:03pm February 04, 2010

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Blogger annie said...

Sometimes I think the world runs on oily nuttiness.


3:12 AM  

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