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Men at Work accused of plagiarism over 'Down Under'

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Published on Jun 25, 2009

It's one of the most iconic Australian pop songs of all time, but a legal spat has broken out over whether the Men at Work song 'Down Under' is actually a rip-off of a children's song.

The '80s anthem rocked its way up the worldwide charts, but the manliness of the song about beer and women has been brought into question by claims it's a Girl Guides song.

Lawyers say 'Down Under' is a rip-off of the children's classic 'Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree' which was written in 1934 by Melbourne music teacher, Marion Sinclair, for a Girl Guides competition.

Ms Sinclair sold the rights to the song to a music publishing company called Larrikin before she died and now Larrikin wants compensation from Men at Work's labels Sony, BMG and EMI for lost royalties.

The music giants say when Sinclair gave the song to the Girl Guides it became theirs and she no longer has any copyright entitlement.

The case has begun in Melbourne's federal court where the legal argument will come down to semantics.

Does 'Down Under' use a "substantial" part of the tune or not?

If Men at Work lose, the 'Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree' owners will have the last laugh. The commercial success of 'Down Under' could mean millions of dollars in compensation.

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