In 2009, the music publishing company that owns the rights to the Australian children's song "Kookaburra
" sued the "Down Under" songwriters, claiming the flute riff copied the children's classic. On February 4, 2010, a judge ruled in favor of Larrakin Music, which owned the "Kookaburra" publishing rights - the song having been originally penned by music teacher Marion Sinclair in 1932. In his judgment, he said that Men At Work had infringed Larrikin's copyright because "Down Under" reproduced "a substantial part of Kookaburra."
The lawsuit asked for 60 percent of the publishing rights; the judgment was for 5 percent, retroactive to 2002, netting Larrikin about $100,000. According to Colin Hay, legal fees in the case totaled about $4.5 million, as he fought it aggressively.
Hay said after the judgment: "I'll go to my grave knowing 'Down Under' is an original piece of work. In over 20 years no one noticed the reference to 'Kookaburra.' Marion Sinclair never made any claim that we had appropriated any part of her song, and she was alive when 'Down Under' was a hit. Apparently she didn't notice either."
Greg Ham, who contributed the controversial flute part, told Melbourne's The Age
newspaper: "It will be the way the song is remembered, and I hate that. I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered - for copying something."
According to Colin Hay, it was the stress of the court case that led to the death of Ham at the age of 58 in 2012.