By John, posted by Tracy
I, like many other Australian schoolchildren of my era, had the song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” rammed down my throat at school, camps, cub scouts and wherever else nationalism raised its ugly head. We had no choice in listening, and were usually forced to participate. Children were rarely offered the right of refusal, and were certainly paid no damages by the copyright holders when it was broadcast over the school loudspeakers during music period.
That a contemporary musician should have unconsciously played on that tune, then, would be little surprise (even if it were actually the case, which I don’t believe it was – it’s not a complex “riff”/motif and it could be individually generated many times in many places without degrees of separation... ‘ownership’ is always dubious). That tune was burned into the psyche, inflicting its damage, and maybe playing it out and reinventing it was a survival option. A kind of regeneration and reclaiming of the right to creativity and not imprisonment.
I don’t like the Men at Work song it attaches to, but I recognise the influence and effect it has had on many who associate it with something reassuring. I am not reassured by those things, but acknowledge that others are.
Copyright is frequently a brutal tool of the uncreative to profit from others. Too often dollar signs and not creativity are behind its application. Bringing trauma upon those who create music in the spirit of energy and enthusiasm for creativity (whether one likes the music or not), when confronted with the tools of capitalist greed (even though so many musicians pursue and embrace that very machinery themselves), is reprehensible.
Probably the most absurd application of copyright is that pertaining to the song “Happy Birthday to You”. You have to pay a royalty every time you perform/sing it in a public place? Piss off. No way. Not a song I like either, but having been saturated in it as a child, I feel I have the right to do as I will with it. I wish to reclaim the space it has claimed in my head. It has no rights over me; neither do corporate monsters who feed off our souls. And no one’s legacy should be ruined by the spectre of copyright and accusations of plagiarism driven by downright greed.