by Larry Fyffe
There are those who accuse Bob Dylan of ‘plagiarism’ when they have little awareness of the custom of borrowing floating lyrics and tunes from traditional folk and blues music. Apparently, true musicians and songwriters are supposed to come up with songs and music out of nowhere as if s/he lives in some kind of cultural vacuum.
The legal definition of plagiarism – that there has to be a substantial similarity to material that is under copyright – is where the ship hits the sand; otherwise artistic creativity would be stifled. A suit over ‘Don’t Think Twice ‘ and the previous ‘Who’s Gonna Buy Your Ribbons’ was settled out of court in that regard.
James Damaino sues over Dylan’s supposed theft of a fragment from:
Even if it were to accept that Dylan were aware of the lyrics above, the court held there be insufficient similarity in the following lyrics:
It’s a long and winding road to establish actual plagiarism under the law, given the use of common phrases and differing contexts.
Noted I have that Dylan references, makes tribute to, poet John Keats but that’s because he reveals it more than once, and in any event, the poetry is in the public domain. Allusions are part of artistic tradition and it’s innovative in that it brings otherwise often unknown poetry to popular awareness. Giving away the source would spoil the surprise of noticing the source for yourself or at least being informed thereof.
Is Bob Dylan going to sue Bob Dylan for having cheated on himself:
Likewise, Damaino claims the exclusive right to the following lyrics:
In that Dylan writes:
Given legal rebuttals, a feeling of suspicion and distraught on the part of the perceived underdog Damaino that Dylan draws from his work is not considered anywhere close to establishing plagiarism under the rules of civil law in the Damaino vs Dylan case.
In relation to Damaino’s claim to:
In the end, the court ruled that it was all over now.
As Bob Dylan might sing in a revision of ‘Baby Blue’:
What else is on the site
1: 500+ reviews of Dylan songs. There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.
2: The Chronology. We’ve taken the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums. The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site. We have also produced overviews of Dylan’s work year by year. The index to the chronologies is here.
3: Bob Dylan’s themes. We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions. There is an index here.
4: The Discussion Group We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
5: Bob Dylan’s creativity. We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further. The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.
And please do note The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews