Aussie legal battle hits sour note Down Under


June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 25, 2009 at 4:12 AM EDT

One of Australia's most famous schoolyard songs and a rock tune widely accepted as the nation's unofficial anthem are at the centre of a bitter legal battle over a flute riff.

Music company Larrikin is suing iconic band Men at Work in the Federal Court for allegedly ripping off a section of "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree" in the flute solo of their song "Down Under", local media reported Thursday.

The song was a worldwide hit when it was first released in the early 1980s, becoming the unofficial anthem of the Australian team that won the Americas Cup in 1983. It also featured in the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

It pays tribute to Vegemite sandwiches and a land where "women glow and men plunder", and is a jukebox favourite in drinking establishments across the nation.

Larrikin claims Men at Work directly lifted part of its distinctive flute section from Kookaburra's score, the rights to which Larrikin allegedly acquired in 1990.

The children's ditty was penned by teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides Jamboree in 1934.

Larrikin is suing Men at Work's Colin Hay and Ron Strykert and labels Sony BMG and EMI for breach of copyright and unpaid royalties.

Defence lawyers argue that the copyright was never properly signed over by Sinclair and still belongs to the Girl Guides movement, not Larrikin.

According to widely-publicised court documents, they also deny the Down Under work "incorporates the whole or any substantial part of the Kookaburra work", and accuse Larrikin of misleading or deceptive conduct.

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