Sunday, May 02, 2010

When a "first rater" copies a "second rater"

Writing about the "is Bob Dylan a plagiarist?" discussion, Sean Wilentz of the Daily Beast (once home to plagiarist Gerald Posner) referred to Henry Timrod in the following way:

Three years later, when Dylan released Modern Times, listeners trawled for arcane references on the new album, and find them they did, including poetic fragments from Ovid and Henry Timrod, the second-rate pro-Confederate Southern poet.

When Laurence Tribe was caught plagiarizing, the victim was the lesser-known UVa professor Professor Henry J. Abraham.

Wilentz noted in the piece: Dylan’s method was fully in line with what Pete Seeger had called “the folk process,” borrowing freely from others to create something new.

One thinks back to the 15th century, in a world before Pete Seeger:

We have among us men of great genius, apt to invent and discover ingenious devices... if provision were made for the works and devices discovered by such persons, so that others who may see them could not build them and take the inventor's honor away, more men would then apply their genius, would discover, and would build devices of great utility and benefit to our Commonwealth. Venetian Republic Patent Statute (1474), reprinted in PRINCIPLES OF PATENT LAW 10-11 (Donald S. Chisum et al. eds., 2d ed. 2001).


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