This is obviously a polarizing topic and opinions vary wildly. I present statements from two writers who have planted their flags in opposite sides of the field.
Here's Sean Wilentz in Bob Dylan in America
: "At the most basic legal level, the charges of plagiarism were groundless. Many of the words as well as melodies that Dylan appropriated had long ago passed into the public domain and were free for appropriation by anyone. The exceptions, like the Yakuza
borrowing, involved isolated lines—images and turns of phrase—that hardly represented passing off another persons memoir as his own."
Here's Michael Gray on the subject: "...you can surely see that another way of reacting to the revelations from Scott Warmuth about passages from Chronicles Volume One
might be with great disappointment - great disappointment that whole paragraphs that were very reasonably assumed to be, and praised as, terrific prose by Bob Dylan, turn out to be 'copied out', as we used to say at school, from prose by other writers.
Now you may say - I might say myself - that that isn't plagiarism but literary quilt-making, or postmodernist game-playing, or something else very Dylanesque and clever. But to ask a simple question from the same starting-point: ie from the fact that whole paragraphs reasonably assumed to be, and praised as, terrific prose by Bob Dylan, proved to have been copied out from prose by other writers: if that isn't plagiarism, what is?"http://bobdylanencyclopedia.blogspot.co ... llins.html
There's quite a gap between "groundless" and "if that isn't plagiarism, what is?" - too bad the discussion usually stalls here in an endless stream of bile and invective as displayed recently by a select number of people here who are clearly lacking in the social graces.