First of all, that is a great article. Lately I have doing a great deal of reading on the history and origins of "The Arabian Nights," and I do believe certain tales are universal across almost all societies.
Cryptomnesia is a very interesting concept, only because it cannot be proved. I think musically it is a little easier to swallow, because there are a finite number of notes, and therefore a limited number of melodies.
Hard to believe Nabokov wouldn't have known about the 1916 story and pilfered it deliberately. Having said that, I don't have a problem with that, because he materially changed it into something new. He took the tale of a older man falling for a younger woman, which is a basic psychological archetype, and created a literary work from it.
Likewise, I don't have a problem with watching "Apocalypse Now" knowing that it is a take-off of Conrad, "West Side Story" knowing that it a take off of "Romeo And Juliet," or even the Stark Trek episode "Balance Of Terror" knowing it is a take off of "The Enemy Below," because in each case the "new" story adds a different dimension.
Also, I don't have a problem with the Cut-Up Method, because intellectually I know what is being employed and generally I know who is doing it. Similarly, I don't have a problem with sampling in rap music, mainly because, in the few rap albums I have looked at, the samples seem clearly credited.
With Dylan though, the issue becomes clouded; bear with me for a second. In each of the cases above, I either had exposure to the original, or at least had a chance to come across it at some point.
So lyrically Dylan's employing a version of the cut-up method. Cool, I didn't know that, but I don't have a problem with it, as I am familiar with it--perfectly valid artistic expression.
Musically though, I have a big problem when he is lifting whole melodies without credit. With folk music the conceit, which I don't particularly agree with, is that appropriating melodies is part of the folk process. And I am going to give him a slight pass on some of the blues-based things because, again, in the blues there are only so many melodies to go around.
But when I see that the music to "Blind Willie McTell" is a direct lift of "St. James Infirmary Blues," "Things Have Changed" is nearly identical to "Observations Of A Crow," "Floater" comes from "Snuggled On Your Shoulder" and "Sugar Baby" is derived from "The Lonesome Road," I start to have a real problem with that being uncredited.
Is Bob guilty of cryptomnesia? I am going to admit bias here, I consider myself pretty musically knowledgeable. I grew up on blues, rock and country music, have played in bands on and off all my adult life, took jazz guitar lessons for seven years and have more than a passing knowledge of classical music. I see and hear similarities between chord changes and melodies everywhere. I find it hard to believe it is cryptomnesia when whole songs are being lifted, and that there isn't some deliberate attempt on his part to hide his methods, considering the "obscure" songs being used. However, the fine folks on this forum and in others are familiar with these tunes he is "appropriating" and are pointing them out to us, so I might be able to pass it off as ignorance on my part.
So bottom line is, I think Bob needs to "cite his sources" at least musically, if only through a writing credit. Also, I respect his right to enforce his copyright, though I disagree with the applications of the law.
Finally, I'd be more willing to give Bob a pass on the "plagiarism" if he wasn't such a jerk about the Youtube stuff.