The Courier-Mail

‘I’D RISK JAIL OVER MATILDA’

John’s Waltzing standoff

- FIONA PURDON

AUSTRALIA’S most recognised singer of Waltzing Matilda, John Williamson, says he is prepared to serve a jail term rather than pay to perform our national song.

The company that owns part of the rights, WM Production­s, said it would allow the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton to use and refer to Banjo Paterson’s classic – but it would continue to seek an extension of its trademark. Williamson said the song should not have been registered as a trademark: “If I had to pay someone to use the words ‘Waltzing Matilda’, then I would refuse and I would rather go to jail.”

THE nation’s most recognised singer of Waltzing Matilda, John Williamson, is prepared to go to jail rather than pay to use the iconic words as the trademark stoush over Australia’s unofficial national anthem intensifie­s. The company that owns part of the rights to Waltzing Matilda, WM Production­s, yesterday said it would continue to fight for an extension of their trademark but would allow the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton to use and refer to Banjo Paterson’s classic.

WM Production director Gina Boon and Winton Shire Council CEO Tom Upton have agreed to abide by a formal deed made in 2003 which grants the centre an exemption from the trademark and legal action.

But the trademark, registered by WM Production­s in 1998, will stick for all other parties wishing to use it.

Williamson, who became famous for singing Waltzing Matilda at the 1999 Bledisloe and World cups, is the latest high-profile Australian to support a campaign to have the trademark registrati­on of the iconic song overturned.

He said Waltzing Matilda should never have been allowed to be a registered trademark and was concerned he may have inadvertan­tly infringed on the trade mark during his career.

“If I had to pay someone to use the words Waltzing Matilda (on merchandis­e) then I would refuse and I would rather go to jail,’’ Williamson (pictured) said. “The authoritie­s should have been drawn over the coals by allowing this trademark.

“You shouldn’t be able to register words that belong to all Australian­s.’’

Alistair Campbell, great-grandson of Banjo Paterson who wrote Waltzing Matilda in 1895 while staying in Winton Shire, was also surprised that the trademark laws could allow the trademark registrati­on of the words.

“I’m interested to hear what the Prime Minister’s thoughts on the subject are,’’ he said.

Ms Gina Boon said the company registered Waltzing Matilda as a trademark in 1998 to cover film production and cinematogr­aphy, when the vision for a movie about the song was conceived.

She said the Winton Shire Council and the Waltzing Matilda Centre initially opposed WM Production­s’ registrati­on of the trademark Waltzing Matilda. But the Commonweal­th Trade Marks Office and the Federal Court of Australia confirmed that the trade mark Waltzing Matilda was registrabl­e, in 2002, she said.

In June this year WM Production­s made a further applicatio­n to extend the trademark to include merchandis­e and marketing material.

Williamson believes Waltzing Matilda is Australia’s greatest song.

“It is the only song that all Australian­s will sing from the heart,’’ he said.

YOU SHOULDN’T BE ABLE TO REGISTER WORDS THAT BELONG TO ALL AUSTRALIAN­S

John Williamson

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