February 4, 2010

Men at Work lose court battle over plagiarism

Filed under: Australia, Law, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:54

Remember the flute part in “Down Under”? Men at Work now probably wish they’d chosen a different way to highlight typical Australian tunes, as they’ve been ordered to pay costs to the estate of Marion Sinclair for using the theme to “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” in their song:

Larrikin Music had claimed the flute riff from the 1981 hit was stolen from Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, written by Marion Sinclair in 1934.

The federal court in Sydney ordered compensation to be paid.

That amount has yet to be determined but Larrikin’s lawyer said it could reach 60% of income from the song.

“It’s a big win for the underdog,” said Larrikin’s lawyer Adam Simpson after the judgment.

Sinclair, who died in 1988, wrote the song for performance at a Girl Guides Jamboree in 1935.

Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree has since been sung by generations of Australian schoolchildren.

Oddly enough, I downloaded this song just last week, prompted by a recent Mark Steyn column.

Men At Work came from a land Down Under and in January 1983 they were on top of the world: “Down Under” was Number One not only in Oz but also in the United Kingdom and in the United States, and to this day Men At Work are the only Australian band to have topped simultaneously both the British and American singles and albums charts. A lot of the pop songs from that period you’ll still hear on the Eighties oldies stations: in America, Men At Work were succeeded at the top of the Hot One Hundred by Toto and “Africa”, which is pleasant enough in a bland sort of way; and in Britain they made way in the Number One slot for Kajagoogoo and “Too Shy”, and gosh, it’s years since my fingers have had cause to type the word “Kajagoogoo” and even then it was as a punchline for a cheap gag. But “Down Under” transcended the passing fancies of the hit parade and has become an Australian anthem. There have been other international Oz hits, of course, notably Rolf Harris’ classic recording of “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” – and, as we always have to point out whenever the subject arises, a truly great novelty song like “Tie Me Kangaroo” should never be confused with a truly atrocious one like Charlie Drake’s “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back”.

But “Down Under” has become a kind of musical shorthand for contemporary Australia

Unemployment insurance systems can deter hiring

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:31

Jay Goltz discusses how some state-level unemployment insurance systems actually deter firms from hiring new employees:

The unemployment insurance tax may be the most confusing and misunderstood tax there is. It is run by the states, and the rules can vary as much as the weather from one state to another.

Here’s how it works in Illinois. The important point for business owners to know is that when the state pays out claims to a company’s former employees, that company’s unemployment tax rate goes up. For each business, the state calculates how many dollars have been paid in compensation over the previous three years and adds on about 48 percent through various calculations. The result is that in Illinois, you end up paying for incremental compensation claims at a rate of $1.48 for every dollar that a former employee collects.

If you lay off or fire someone without “cause,” that person is eligible for unemployment compensation. “Cause” means that the employee violated a company policy, like coming in late or threatening a co-worker. “Cause” does not include doing a bad job, being very slow, or having a bad attitude.

I’d always assumed that the Canadian system (which is run by the federal government) was more generous than the various state-level systems in the US, but there appears to be more variation state-to-state so that may not be true. Certainly the Illinois system’s top payment of $531 per week is well above the Canadian EI top payment ($457 before taxes, according to the servicecanada.gc.ca website). If the Illinois amount is after tax, that’s significantly more than a Canadian claimant would get.

Powered by WordPress