The 1987 song by Bruce of The Seekers and Dobe of The Bushwackers has entered the list of iconic Australian songs gaining the attention of the courts – in this case the Copyright Tribunal.
It’s not as salacious as Pharrell and Robin Thicke’s recent theft of Mavin Gaye’s Got to give it up in the hit Blurred Lines, but at least it’s an example of protection given to copyright holders in Australia.
“I am, you are, we are Australian” are the perfect lyrics and song for inclusion in Australian citizenship ceremonies. So much so our Government used the song without permission from Bruce and Dobe.
But if the Government doesn’t pay for the rights to a song, what can you do? Unlike private citizens who must obtain permission before using someone’s copyright work, the Government has protection in the Copyright Act that permits it to use a copyright work without permission of its owner if the work is used for government services.
There’s no doubt that a citizenship ceremony is a government service, but it seems unfair that the Government can just take your song and use it without permission.
As unfair as it may seem, that’s the law. But all is not lost.
If the Government takes your work and uses it and you don’t agree, then the Copyright Tribunal will step in and fix a price for the use of the work.
In this case the Government was ordered to pay $149,743.34 for 3 years and 8 months use of the song. That amount was an assessment of what is a ‘fair’ price for the use of the song.
We’re happy with the result. We’re happy for our newest Australians to be greeted with such an iconic tune too.