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The Time John Fogerty Was Sued for Ripping Off John Fogerty

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Henry Diltz/CORBIS

In 1993, former Creedence Clearwater Revival singer John Fogerty found himself at the center of a case being argued before the United States Supreme Court. The country’s highest court wasn’t debating whether Bayou Country or Green River was the superior CCR album. Instead, Fogerty was in the middle of an important, somewhat obscure corner of copyright law.

The seeds for Fogerty’s day in court traced back 23 years to 1970. That April, CCR released the Fogerty-penned “Run Through the Jungle” as a single that would eventually be certified gold by the RIAA. “Run Through the Jungle” is a solid tune, but it didn’t really grab headlines until 1985 when Fogerty released a solo track called “The Old Man Down the Road.”

“The Old Man Down the Road” is a pretty nice song, too; it even cracked the top 10 on the singles charts. One person wasn’t a fan, though. Saul Zaentz, who owned CCR’s old label Fantasy Records, also owned the copyright to “Run Through the Jungle.” Zaentz felt that “The Old Man Down the Road” was simply “Run Through the Jungle” with different words. In other words, John Fogerty had plagiarized a John Fogerty song to which he didn’t own the copyright.

Zaentz felt he had a case, so he sued Forgerty in federal court for copyright infringement.

(It’s worth noting that Zaentz and Fogerty weren’t on the best of terms in the first place. The same 1985 album that featured “The Old Man Down the Road,” Centerfield, also included the tracks “Mr. Greed” and “Zanz Kant Danz.” Critics and fans saw these songs as pointed attacks on Zaentz, and the label head initiated a separate $144 million defamation lawsuit that claimed Fogerty portrayed him as “a thief, robber, adulterer, and murderer.” The two sides settled that suit out of court.)

Defamation aside, was there any merit to the copyright claims? Have a listen and decide for yourself:

"Run Through the Jungle"

“The Old Man Down the Road”

The case ended up before a jury in Federal District Court in San Francisco in late 1988. The two-week trial featured Fogerty taking the witness stand with guitar in hand to explain that yes, the two songs may have sounded somewhat similar, but they were both variations on his signature “swamp rock” style. Simply put, of course two John Fogerty songs sounded the same.

This logic seemed pretty sound to the jury. It only took two hours of deliberation for the jury to determine that the two songs didn’t meet the legal standard of being “substantially similar” that would have constituted copyright infringement. The Fogerty camp let out a collective “huzzah!”

Encore!

The real legal action was just warming up, though. Since Fogerty had successfully defended himself against Fantasy Records’ suit, he sought reimbursement for his attorney’s fees. No dice. If the plaintiff, Fantasy, had been successful in its suit against Fogerty, the label would have been able to seek its lawyer fees from the musician. Since Fogerty had been a prevailing defendant, though, the court ruled that he could only seek fees if he could show that Fantasy’s suit was frivolous or had been made in bad faith. Fantasy’s suit may not have panned out, but it didn’t fit those criteria.

This decision put Fogerty in a sticky spot. Sure, he had won the case, but he was on the hook for $1.09 million in fees for his attorneys and those of his current label, Warner Brothers. Fogerty and his team didn’t think this arrangement was very fair, so they appealed the decision. In 1993 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit shot down that appeal, though, on the same grounds—the original suit had been neither frivolous nor brought in bad faith.

After that failed appeal, Fogerty v. Fantasy – which would be an awesome title for a Fogerty concept record about battling elves, by the way – ended up in front of the Supreme Court. Fogerty’s camp made the same argument: that it made no sense to have a dual standard for plaintiffs and defendants seeking reimbursement for lawyer fees under the Copyright Act of 1976.

In March 1994, the Supreme Court issued a 9-to-0 decision in favor of Fogerty. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote that there was nothing in the Copyright Act of 1976 that implied that Congress wanted anything other than a level playing field when it came to awarding attorney’s fees to the prevailing party. (Rehnquist also hinted at a bit of Creedence fandom, writing that CCR "has been recognized as one of the greatest American rock and roll groups of all time.")

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Food
In a Delicious Rivalry, Two Pierogi Festivals Fight Over a Shared Name
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Whiting, Indiana and Edwardsville, Pennsylvania are embroiled in a duel of the dumplings. While located in different regions of the U.S., the two municipalities share a local tradition: They host annual festivals that celebrate Polish pierogies, which are fried dough morsels stuffed with meat, cheese, potatoes, fruits, and other fillings. Both events are called "Pierogi Fest"—and as Smithsonian reports, neither town is pleased about it. And now, they're in a nasty legal battle over the name.

Technically speaking, Whiting's Pierogi Fest—and its moniker, which the city trademarked in 2007—came first: Their event was launched more than two decades ago, whereas the inaugural Edwardsville Pierogi Festival took place in 2014. The following year, the Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce—which runs Indiana's Pierogi Fest—sent a letter to their their dumpling-loving rivals in the Keystone State, threatening to sue them for infringing on their name.

The Edwardsville Hometown Committee—which runs Pennsylvania's Pierogi Fest—didn't comply with the request. So in June 2017, Whiting officials followed up with a second legal threat, which they mailed to the Edwardsville Hometown Committee and five of its sponsors. This move reportedly made some local businesses think twice about supporting the event.

Instead of backing down, Edwardsville officials flexed their own legal muscle: They filed a federal lawsuit against the Whiting Pierogi Fest's organizers, alleging that they "willfully and tortiously interfered with the Hometown Committee's relationship with sponsors" by "threatening them with liability for the claimed trademark infringement," according to The Chicago Tribune. They're requesting compensation for damages and attorney fees, and official legal permission to continue using the name Pierogi Fest.

Whiting officials—who, in recent years, also filed a successful infringement lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival—say that the similarly named festivals cause "consumer confusion," even though Whiting's festival is much larger and more established than the one in Edwardsville. Meanwhile, pierogi lovers in Edwardsville argue that the two dumpling fests are held so far away from each other that having the same name shouldn't be a big deal. 

The 2017 Edwardsville and Whiting Pierogi Fests have already passed, but the legal battle between the two towns rages on. Hopefully by the time the 2018 festivals roll around, the two municipalities will have finally settled their nasty dough-spute once and for all.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Animals
Swans Used to Be an Aristocratic Delicacy—Now They're Practically Royalty
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If you've ever wondered why people in the United Kingdom eat duck, chicken, and goose, but never swan, there is a simple explanation for that: Swans are the property of Queen Elizabeth II, who exercises a strict no-eating policy for the birds that dwell on London's River Thames.

In fact, she's even hired individuals called "swan markers" to protect the royal species. Great Big Story caught up with David Barber, a swan marker tasked with looking after the swans wherever the Queen has requested service. Among his responsibilities is "swan upping," a practice that has taken place since the 12th century. Once a year, Barber—alongside a crew of people in six rowing skiffs—rides along the River Thames collecting information about the birds. During this excursion, the crew will weigh and measure every swan they encounter, as well as check for any injuries or diseases.

A couple of years ago, the Queen herself joined the team for their annual excursion. As for whether she enjoyed herself? Well, Barber wouldn't dare answer for the Queen, but he suspects so.

Watch the video from Great Big Story below:

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