Bob Dylan has a pretty long history of appropriating works from others, but then going after anyone
who has built on his works. He's also been held up
by copyright maximalists as someone whose career just wouldn't be the same without strong copyright. So it's somewhat amusing to discover, once again, that he's been caught outright copying others. Emily Goodhand
points us to the news that Dylan has a new painting exhibit, and people have started noticing that some of the paintings appear to be clearly copied from old photographs
. Take these two comparisons from the NY Times:
The images on the left are from Dylan's exhibit (photographs taken by the NY Times' Marcus Yam). The top photo on the right is by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the lower photo is by Leon Busy. It would be difficult for anyone to argue that the paintings were not based on these photos. Dylan had claimed that the paintings were all based on scenes he had seen in his travels. I guess he may have seen those photographs during his travels, but that's certainly not the implied origin of the paintings.
Now, to be clear, I actually don't see anything wrong with Dylan making such paintings. Painting from a source photograph is a good way for many to learn how to paint. On top of that, the paintings don't take away anything from the photos, and may actually create more attention for the photos. It does feel sleazy, though, to not credit the source. But the bigger issue is the hypocrisy of it all -- of arguing that others can't appropriate his works, while regularly and directly appropriating the works of others... and then refusing to admit to it.