The case of an alleged stolen melody by band Men at Work highlighted the importance of documenting the chain of title for intellectual property, partner at McCullough Robertson Malcolm McBratney said last week.
Music publisher Larrikin claimed the flute riff from the 1981 hit Down Under was stolen from song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, which was written by Marion Sinclair for a Victorian Girl Guides competition in 1934.
Larrikin Music sued Sony BMG and EMI for breach of copyright, claiming it bought the rights in 1990 and was seeking royalties from the Down Under song.
The Federal Court ruled that Larrikin Music does own the copyright, despite arguments that it was never properly signed over by Sinclair and still belongs to the Girl Guides.
McBratney said a chain of title demonstrates the historical transfer of ownership of intellectual property and can be critical to establishing proprietary rights.
"The importance of conducting a thorough due diligence, if acquiring intellectual property rights, is important to determine that the party the intellectual property rights are being acquired from actually has the right and ability to grant those rights," he said.
"The importance of documenting the transfer of any rights in intellectual property is certainly made clear by this case."
A plagiarism case can now be pursued by Larrikin Music.