Bob Dylan: People Claiming I Plagiarized Them Are Pussies

from the meow dept

I know two things about Bob Dylan. First, my father loves him and thinks he's the kind of lyrical mastermind that makes puppies weep or something. Second, man does that guy like to contradict himself. Mike recently wrote up a more general piece about how copyright law goes against how we as a people create and mentioned in passing how Bob Dylan is often cited as a gift bestowed upon the masses by copyright, despite his appropriation of others' work in his lyrics. Well guess what, Mike? Bob Dylan thinks you're a pussy!

Yes, reader redrum writes in about a wonderful story in which Bob Dylan flatly states that those who have accused him of plagiarism are "wussies and pussies."
20120418IMG_1457-Microphone placement shoot
"Meow I would not feeeeel, so all alooooone!"
Image source: CC BY 2.0
No, not like that. He meant it in the demeaning ignorant way, proving his power over prose with such eloquence I haven't seen since college, when a stoned fraternity brother explained to me how awesome hazing is. In any case, the interview apparently went much deeper than simple misogyny.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine for its Friday edition, the influential singer-songwriter made his first public comments on the accusations, saying that in folk and jazz music "quotation is a rich and enriching tradition."

"Everyone else can do it but not me," he complained. "There are different rules for me."
It's a fair point by Dylan, I think. I mean, so what if he appropriated lyrics like "I'm not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound" almost verbatim from the biography of a Japanese mobster? That seriously isn't a big deal. And, yes, perhaps it seemed kind of strange when Dylan offered the world a painting exhibit he said was from scenes of his travels, when they were actually scenes from other people's photographs. But big deal. That's often how culture works. No harm, no foul.

The problem, of course, is that there are some people who think this kind of appropriation isn't okay. That it takes away from culture, rather than adding to it. That words have the right to be owned and art should be protected. One such person, who would disagree with Bob Dylan in this case, is Bob Dylan. As we've previously discussed:
He didn't just filch songs from other people's repertoires; he stole their arrangements. (As late as 1992, he lifted Nic Jones's arrangement of Canadee-I-O, wholesale and without acknowledgment.) He did this on both sides of the Atlantic. The great Martin Carthy, who has also just turned 70, taught him Scarborough Fair, which Dylan then recycled as Girl from the North Country. 

But he treated his own songs as private property: what's yours is mine and what's mine is my own. The assertion of his individualism involved in "going electric" was in part a way of defining Dylan entirely as an individual artist and therefore as the sole owner of his own songs. 
And that's the Bob Dylan we disagree with. Of course appropriating words, or photographs, or whatever as pieces to a larger cultural output is the way folk music works. And art. And writing. And film. We all stand on the shoulders, to some degree, of those that came before us. It's a good thing. As much as Dylan is contradicting himself, he's correct to push back on those accusing him of plagiarism. But he might also have to revisit his own views on the way people use his work as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    GMacGuffin (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 8:24am

    What's in a name?

    Oh, and there's the part where young Bobby Zimmerman (from Hibbing, MN - played there; tiny; any reason is good reason to leave) borrowed his stage surname from the poet Dylan Thomas ...

     

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  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 8:41am

    Well guess what, Mike? Bob Dylan thinks you're a pussy
    Welcome to the club Bob.

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 8:48am

    Re:

    Does your club serve beverages? I'd be willing to hate Mike for a nice hoppy IPA. I'll even burn Techdirt in effigy for a case of Zombie Dust....

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 8:55am

    Bob is a pedent fart

    Couldn't resist the trolling sorry :D

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 8:59am

    Re:

    Hey AC, mind entertaining with one of your tripped out outbursts ? This friday's kinda boring :D

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:00am

    Re:

    Now that is an interesting theory: Bob on this site is actually Bob Dylan!

    It would probably explain a few things.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:01am

    Re: Re:

    Please elaborate with facts !

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:13am

    and how many others have the same opinion? dont try to use anything of mine cause i'll sue you! i can use anything of yours i like, though, and dont dare to try to prosecute me cause i have more money than you and am more famous and have the labels on my side and the RIAA and it would make me cry!!

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:15am

    Re:

    He's too cool to be part of your club. He thinks that your club is for wussies and pussies...

    ...and then he stole your club idea.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:22am

    Re:

    You are that Metallica guy, right ? :D

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Average Bob Dylan, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:24am

    Just Like a Pirate

    Hey Masnick, he's my friend
    Yes I believe I'll go troll him again
    When we meet again
    Introduced as friends
    Please don't let on that he knew me when
    I was hungry
    And it was his blog

    You make love just like a pirate
    And you take just like a pirate
    You ache just like a pirate
    But you break just like someone who's using the Internet as designed, to exchange data packets wholesale with other consenting adults

     

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  12.  
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    Haywood (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:34am

    Re:

    I totally agree, I'm a child of the Cold War, and grew up listening to Bob, I couldn't wait for his latest. Now I've had time to reflect, he was a bigger part of the problem than the fat cats he mocked. He now is the establishment, and he is good at it. Just sad, that's all.

     

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  13.  
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    Christopher (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:44am

    Dylan as a puss

    I hafta give ol' Bob some credit though; he magnanimously "allowed" Jimi Hendrix to cover his songs ("My songs are his songs"). Of course, it probably had something to do with the fact that Jimi often transformed someone else's songs from "meh" to "Holy Christ How Cool Was That"...


    -C

     

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  14. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re:

    Given the way you debase yourself for a pat on the head from Mike this offer comes as no surprise.

     

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  15.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, I get it, you like insulting me. But fucking seriously, do I get Zombie Dust or not?!?!?

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    [cricket, cricket]...[chirp].

    He'll be here all week folks!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps next time I'm in Munster, Indiana. Until then you'll have to settle for a St. Sycophant.

     

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  18.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re:

    He's too cool to be part of your club. He thinks that your club is for wussies and pussies...

    I'm starting my club with blackjack and hookers.

    On second thought, forget the blackjack.

    Bender rules.

     

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  19.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 10:52am

    Re: Dylan as a puss

    Of course, it probably had something to do with the fact that Jimi often transformed someone else's songs from "meh" to "Holy Christ How Cool Was That"...

    The way culture really should be. Once we put the two-year-olds ("I want my toy and nobody else can have it,") back into pre-school and limit the derivative works clause of copyright law to works which are not transformative, we will get back to being adults and growing from each other's use of the limited culture we all share. There is no reason fan-fiction should be illegal, and no reason that copying and building on simple ideas should be outlawed.

    This is the very concept of education and of knowledge, we build on everything that came before...nobody, and I mean nobody, came out of the womb knowing everything they now know, and everyone copied from others to get the knowledge they know now. This, fundamentally, is why those here who preach "go come up with something completely new" are idiots. They haven't come up with something completely new themselves, it is impossible, and I am sure deep down they know it, but they don't care. They got theirs, and that is all they care about.

     

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  20.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Please elaborate with facts !
    Or failing that random and/or insane assertations stated as facts will do fine.

     

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  21.  
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    gorehound (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re:

    Bob Dylan is what we call a Yuppie.He is a Sell Out and I was Born in 1956.
    He had his Moment of Cooldom but I found the Radical Garage,Garage Psych, and Early Psych to be a lot more Radical and Cool.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re: Dylan as a puss

    Without derivative works we wouldn't have calculus. Thankfully no one tied up algebra with IP laws.

     

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  23.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Dylan as a puss

    Without derivative works we wouldn't have calculus. Thankfully no one tied up algebra with IP laws.

    Lucky for us, Copyright in its modern form didn't exist during the time Algebra or Calculus was formulated/discovered. At the very best, "Copyright" was a curse that an author would place in their book to prevent folks from copying it at the time.

    I loved Carl Sagan's story about the Library of Alexandria, in COSMOS. Had the Egyptian Government *not* practiced infringement (though copyright didn't exist at the time,) by copying anything and everything they could, the pool of knowledge at the time would have not expanded and all of our collective knowledge of the times would have disappeared into obscurity. It is because of the Library of Alexandria and the willful, mass copying of works that we have stories from Homer or scientific discoveries like Ptolomy that we base our modern science and culture on. It is sad that the Library of Alexandria burned down and many of the works were lost...how much more could we know now if that material had survived. Sure, many of the works were of their time, but I know of a few folks who would love to know how Archimedes destroyed the fleets at the Siege of Syracuse or more of the history and science stories of Babylon.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    gorehound:

    Do you ever wonder why no one responds to your posts?

    Hint: All of that glue you've been huffing makes you virtually incomprehensible.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 3:12pm

    Everybody must get boned!

     

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  26.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 3:57pm

    "Everyone else can do it but not me," he complained. "There are different rules for me."

    I wasn't aware Steve Jobs had a twin...

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2012 @ 5:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Dylan as a puss

    Brushing regularly gets rid of calculus.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2012 @ 2:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Seconded. I'm quite confused by the lack of any actual content in this article.

     

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