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When Chuck Berry Became a Beach Boy

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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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8 Laws Way Past Their Prime
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It took a few centuries, but Canada is finally allowing sorcery again. In June 2017, an updated justice bill was submitted for approval that seeks to lift prohibitions on things that are no longer relevant to 21st century citizens, like dueling (fine provided it’s nonviolent), practicing witchcraft (knock yourself out), or mocking religion (possibly tasteless, but free speech is free speech).

With Canadians getting more progressive in their thinking, it might be time to look at a few other laws that once served a purpose but have now been rendered obsolete by common sense. Here are eight codes that are overdue for an overturn.

1. NO WARMING UP YOUR CAR // IOWA

In 1913, Iowa responded to the burgeoning motor vehicle industry by declaring it illegal to leave a running car unattended. The likely thinking was that the law would prevent thieves from making off with a brand-new Model T. Over 100 years later, it’s devolved into being a total nuisance. Iowans battling cold winters often start their cars with remote starters to get them warm enough to enter, making lawbreakers of virtually everyone heading for work on a cold Midwestern morning. While it’s still on the books, police in Des Moines told WHOTV.com in early 2017 that they don’t have the manpower or inclination to enforce it.

2. MINORS CAN’T PLAY PINBALL // SOUTH CAROLINA

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From the 1940s through the 1970s, several major U.S. cities had a bone to pick with pinball. The analog arcade game was perceived as a form of gambling, with lawmakers worried that juveniles could be driven to skip school and steal pocket change in order to feed their addiction. Pro-pinball constituents argued it was a game of skill rather than chance, and many areas relaxed their stance. But not South Carolina. To this day, it remains illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to draw the plunger and engage in a game. A bill seeking to repeal this minor infraction is currently under review.

3. A BAN ON SHACKING UP // MICHIGAN

Do you dream of living in Michigan? Do you also plan on cohabitating with your unwed partner in a lewd and lascivious manner? You’d better think twice, unless you like the sound of a $1000 fine and a year in jail. A long-outdated law is still active in Michigan that makes it a misdemeanor for unmarried couples to live together. While it’s not enforced—perhaps authorities would have to catch you in the act—it’s still an active prohibition, and one that has been repeatedly introduced for repeal over the years.

4. VENEREAL DISEASE DISCRIMINATION // NEW JERSEY

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With the best interests of the public in mind, New Jersey once decreed that they would place limitations on where people with venereal diseases could live and work. This likely stemmed from a more primitive understanding of how diseases like syphilis could be spread. Despite more advanced thinking, the law survived multiple attempts by the state’s Law Revision Commission to be repealed before it was finally dismissed in late 2014. The bill also struck down a ban on detaining homing pigeons, if you’re into that sort of thing.

5. THE HIGHLY LENIENT CHILD-ABANDONMENT LAW // NEBRASKA

Intended to provide for parents wishing to abandon their infant children without criminal reprimand, Nebraska’s “safe haven” law became something of a national outrage in 2008, when it was publicized that a number of people had dropped off children as old as 17 at area hospitals. Just before the law was repealed to set a strict age limit to infants 30 days old or younger, CNN.com reported that a man flew in from Florida to take advantage of the law and deposited his teenage son in the state.

6. THE FOOTLOOSE LAW // NEW YORK CITY

People dance in a club

In the 1920s, New York City passed a law that prohibited patrons from dancing in nightclubs or other businesses that failed to obtain a cabaret license from the city. The idea was to enforce Prohibition through indirect means, but the law managed to survive throughout the decades while alternately being enforced, ignored, or mocked. Despite a consistent outcry from artist advocacy groups, it's still in effect.

7. REGULATING POSSESSION OF ADULT TOYS // TEXAS

While Texas may be generous when it comes to owning, carrying, and shooting firearms, lawmakers took a more conservative approach to regulating sex toys—specifically, owning too many of them. Texas law stipulates that no one shall own or "promote" more than six "obscene devices." The law, enacted in 1973 during the height of anti-obscenity legislation, is believed to be directed at entertainment or stage performers and may allow for exemptions if the toys are for medical or law enforcement purposes.

8. STRICT HALLOWEEN PROTOCOL // REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE

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You think Halloween is about having fun? It can be—provided you adhere to the strict protocol of Rehoboth Beach, which doesn’t tolerate even a single millisecond of mischief. To help keep kids and their candy bags moving along, the town allows just a small window of trick-or-treating: Parents and kids under 14 can only knock on doors from 6 to 8 p.m. Halloween night and no later. Don’t like it? If Halloween falls on a Sunday, then you don’t get to go that day at all—the festivities, such as they are, are rescheduled to the day prior.

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The Reason Police Officers Tap Your Taillight When They Pull You Over
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Asking a driver for their license and registration is common procedure from police officers during traffic stops. There’s another practice that was once standard across the force but is more of a mystery to the people being pulled over: While approaching a driver’s window, officers will sometimes touch a car's taillight. It's a behavior that dates back decades, though there's no reason to be concerned if it happens at your next traffic stop.

Before cameras were installed on the dashboards of most police cars, tapping the taillight was an inconspicuous way for officers to leave behind evidence of the encounter, according to The Law Dictionary. If something were to happen to the officer during the traffic stop, their interaction with the driver could be traced back to the fingerprints left on the vehicle. This would help other police officers track down a missing member of the force even without video proof of a crime.

The action also started as a way for officers to spook drivers before reaching their window. A pulled-over motorist with a car full of illegal drugs or weapons might scramble to hide any incriminating materials before the officer arrives. The surprise of hearing a knock on their taillight might disrupt this process, increasing their likelihood of getting caught.

Today the risks of this strategy are thought to outweigh the benefits. Touching a taillight poses an unnecessary distraction for officers, not to mention it can give away their position, making them more vulnerable to foul play. And with dash cams now standard in most squad cars, documenting each incident with fingerprints isn’t as necessary as it once was. It’s for these reasons that some police agencies now discourage taillight tapping. But if you see it at your next traffic stop, that doesn’t mean the officer is extra suspicious of you—just that it’s a hard habit to break.

[h/t The Law Dictionary]

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