In the book Free Culture the Nature and Future of Creativity, Lawrene Lessig talks about how in our society there are some things that are free to copy while others are off limits. Lessig mentions how Disney rips off Brothers Grimm stories. Disney, however, puts their own spin on the stories. He goes to talk about doujinshis, which are spin off comics of Japanese manga. He goes on to explain what exactly a doujinshi is, “It is not doujinshi if it is just a copy; the artist must make a contribution to the art he copies, by transforming it either subtly or significantly” (Lessig). This may be strange to Americans because there is no way someone could create a knock-off of Batman, publish and sell it for profit without getting sued. Yet the Japanese don’t ban doujinshi because while they do not use original characters they have original story lines and sometimes their own art style.
Deviantart is a very popular website that was launched in 2000. Their slogan is “where art meets application”. Here, many people post their own art they create. From traditional art (like drawing and painting), to digital art (like photo manipulated images or graphic design) to even artisan crafts and photography, you can find every form of art on this site. People can create an account and post their art. If a viewer likes your work, they may favorite pieces or comment on them. Much of Deviantart however is made up of fan art. Yet no one bats an eye unless an artist claims that the content of their art was their original idea. To a blatant copy issue, users generally get together and report the art to get it removed from the site. You can also find multiple doujinshis on Deviantart. Each one is very different and generally creative in it’s own way. Even I have copied someone else’s style of art and have drawn fan art so that I could learn how to draw better.
It’s not just the small artists who benefit from copying and collaborating with other artists. Even some big name artists are on Deviantart. Lauren Faust and Bryan Lee O'Malley are two examples of people whose work you may have heard of work. Lauren Faust has worked on shows such as the Power Puff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and most recently My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. On the other hand Bryan Lee O'Malley was the man who created the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World comics, which ended up being turned into a movie starring Michael Cera in 2010. Faust is one of the artists who actually looks at what her fans create. She has even kept a mistake character named “Derpy Hooves” in the show because the fandom loved it and created mass amounts of fan art around it.
So, not only can creating fan art help one's own art skills, it also can give artists new ideas so they can build on what they have already created. As long as artist do not blatantly copy other artists (take credit for their work) and give them credit where needed, collaboration should be allowed (and not considered piracy).