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9 Copyrights That Were Donated to Charity

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A lucrative patent or a popular copyright can provide a creator's heirs with solid streams of revenue for decades. Some great artists and inventors decided that they'd rather give the rights to their best creations to charity, though. Here are a few well-known bits of intellectual property that have found their way into charities' portfolios.

1. Peter Pan

Some generous souls even give away their biggest cash cows while they're still alive. In 1929 author J.M. Barrie gave the rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street children's hospital in London. While the play had been a success, newspapers figured that the gift was worth a few thousand pounds a year. Once film took off, though, the rights became much more valuable; over 10 feature films were made from the book before the copyright expired in 2007.

The copyright's expiration in 2007 wasn't totally bad news for the hospital, though; Former prime Minister Jim Callagahn worked out a special bill that allowed the hospital to continue collecting royalties from stage performances of Peter Pan within the U.K.

2. "God Bless America"

In 1918 Irving Berlin was serving the military by writing a musical for his fellow soldiers to perform. The musical Yip Yip Yaphank eventually made it to Broadway, but Berlin ended up cutting one song from the piece and forgetting all about it—a little ditty called "God Bless America." Berlin decided "God Bless America" wasn't rousing enough to be the show's finale, so he scrapped the tune. It went unperformed for 20 years until singer Kate Smith's manager asked Berlin if the composer had a patriotic song that Smith could belt out. Berlin dusted off his forgotten gem, and it quickly became a sort of second national anthem during World War II.

Good news for Berlin and Smith, but even better news for the Scouts. Berlin gave all of the royalties from the song to the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, and over the years the groups have made millions from the song.

3. The Drunk-O-Meter

Sure, as a product name, "Drunk-O-Meter" doesn't have quite the same understated seriousness of "breathalyzer," but the Drunk-O-Meter did the same job. In 1931 Indiana University professor Rolla N. Harger created the Drunk-O-Meter as a device to test the sobriety of drivers. Suspected tipplers breathed into a special balloon, and Harger's device got a reading on how much they'd had to drink. By 1936 Harger had patented his creation, and he eventually signed the invention over to Indiana University. The school's website describes the gift as a "surprise moneymaker."

4. The Clintons' Literary Output

Bill and Hillary Clinton have been fairly prolific as authors, and they've been pretty generous with the royalties. In 1998 Hillary wrote a children's book called Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets that collected fan mail sent to the Clintons' dog and cat. She gave the copyright to the National Park Service, which used the royalties to maintain various parks and the White House.

As of their 1998 tax return, the Clintons had given nearly $920,000 in various book royalties to children's charities, including children's hospitals. In some years Hillary gave every penny of the royalties from her book It Takes a Village to various charities.

5. A Ventriloquist's Heart

Audiences probably remember ventriloquist and voice actor Paul Winchell for his performances as Tigger in Disney's Winnie the Pooh movies. Winchell wasn't just a funny voice, though; he was also an amateur inventor who developed and patented an early version of the artificial heart. Researchers at the University of Utah were working on an artificial heart of their own at the same time, and when they went to patent their design, they found that Winchell had actually scooped them on several features.

Instead of fighting Winchell's patent, the scientists asked him to donate the patent to the university, which he did. In exchange for his cooperation, the school let Winchell conduct research in its labs and assist with transplants.

6. The Terrible Towel

In 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers announcer Myron Cope wanted to come up with a gimmick for fans to bring to games to make home crowds more intimidating. He came up with a beautifully simplistic idea: getting the sea of Steelers fans to all wave gold towels. He named his innovation the Terrible Towel because "it implied wondrous, strange things." Cope eventually trademarked his Terrible Towel idea, and it became quite a moneymaker.

In 1996 Cope assigned the trademark to the Allegheny Valley School for the disabled. Cope's son, Daniel, was born with brain damage and lived at the school. The school must have been delighted to get such a hot trademark in the Pittsburgh area; through the beginning of the 2009 NFL season the school had raked in over $3 million in royalties from Terrible Towel sales.

7. Dorothy Parker's Body of Work

When writer Dorothy Parker died in 1967, she left her entire literary estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. While Parker had never met King, she intensely admired him, and she further stipulated that when King died her estate should become property of the NAACP.

There was a problem, though. Parker appointed her playwright friend Lillian Hellman to be her executor, and Hellman didn't share Parker's admiration of King and the NAACP. Hellman went out of her way to nix any efforts to reprint Parker's work and allegedly did everything she could to hinder Parker's biographers. Some critics have speculated that Hellman felt jilted that Parker, like Hellman's longtime lover Dashiell Hammett, didn't leave her literary estate to Hellman. In any event, a 1972 court ruling gave total control to the NAACP, but Hellman was still ticked off. She told the New York Times Book Review that Parker's gift indicated "she must have been drunk when she did it."

8. Man and Nature

In 1864 environmentalist and diplomat George Perkins Marsh donated the copyright from his landmark ecology text Man and Nature to the United States Sanitary Commission. Marsh's nephew and brother quickly realized that the environmentalist would live to regret this decision, so they arranged to buy the copyright back for $500 and return it to Marsh.

9. The Telegraph

In 1838 Samuel Morse wrote a letter to the Republic of Texas offering to give the fledgling republic the rights to his telegraph invention. Texas never took Morse up on his offer, and the inventor apparently never even got a response. Eventually, Morse wrote a second letter to Sam Houston letting him know that the deal was off the table; he then assigned the rights over the United States.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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