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When Chuck Berry Became a Beach Boy

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MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

A copyright is supposed to protect a creator’s intellectual property and ensure that the copyright holder’s work isn’t nefariously misappropriated. However, as anyone who has fond memories of Napster circa 2000 knows, they don’t always work so well. Not all copyright battles are Metallica-initiated, though.

If you think the wholesale pilfering of songs began when Vanilla Ice swiped the bass line from David Bowie and Queen’s song “Under Pressure” for “Ice, Ice Baby,” think again. Far more revered artists have given in to the temptation to lift more than a chord or two. Take, for instance, The Beach Boys’s classic anthem “Surfin’ USA.”

The 1963 hit single listed Beach Boy Brian Wilson as the sole composer of the track, but the melody was a complete replication of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

For his part, Wilson denied any intentional wrongdoing. "I just took 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and rewrote it into something of our own," Wilson told the Los Angeles Times of the incident in 2015.

When Berry accused Wilson of bogarting his melody, The Beach Boys’ manager, Wilson’s father Murray, gave Berry the copyright to the tune in order to avoid a lawsuit. He didn’t tell the members of the band, however, who supposedly only learned that they weren’t getting royalties from this song—and that Berry now received credit for writing it—about 25 years later.

Berry, for his part, reportedly enjoyed “Surfin’ USA.” And Wilson, according to the Los Angeles Times, never held a grudge. “He still regularly includes Berry songs in his live shows,” wrote Randy Lewis, “and has even slipped ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ lyrics into his live rendition of ‘Surfin' U.S.A.’”

Berry passed away yesterday, March 18, 2017, at the age of 90.

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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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