Bob Dylan the Crook?

Controversy over plagiarism is a nutritious source of gossip we all like to have a slurp on. Whether it's the Coldplay/ Joe Satriani scandal or Banksy's brazen cribbing of Blek Le Rat, we lap it up with relish and giggle with glee - they've been clocked!

I went to see an art exhibition at my girlfriend's uni a few months ago and had a chuckle over a piece that was supposedly identical to a flickr image a classmate had stumbled upon. Imagining the expression on the dude's face when he was caught red-handed was priceless, but plagiarism is hardly a rarity on art foundation courses (the cover art of Dark Side Of The Moon and best of Blur both made unsung appearances at the same exhibition). More surprising, perhaps, is when a titan like Bob Dylan is the target of the accusations.

Bob's always had a soft spot for the visual, and the last few decades has seen him progress as a prolific artist as well as songsmith. However his most recent exhibition, supposedly inspired by the scenery of his recent South East Asia tour, has got the shit stirring. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dmitri Kessel and Léon Busy are among the names who claim to have their Flickr accounts looted by the cheeky freewheeler.

This, however, is far from the first time Dylan has been accused of such things. His work has, at times, borne striking similarities to the creative output of the Civil War and the Beat Generation, not to mention the unblushingly absolute influence Woody Guthrie had on his early work (even 'Song For Woody' pilfered the melody from his repertoire). Asked once in an interview "do you sing your own songs or other people's?", he replied "they're mine, now".

What is it that accommodates such success for someone so obviously borrowing from others? Do we, perhaps, place too much importance on the abstinence from any obvious influence in the creation of original ideas? Is Bob Dylan, after all, not an original artist? A tricky question.