"Everything is derivative!"
Some things are more derivative than others. That's what copyright is for.
"Who are YOU to say what is and isn't art?"
I'm a little miffed by this one, because it's like people shooting the messenger. I hate to rain on your parade, but there are legal definitions out there for art. And yes, those partially define art for me personally, but guess what? They also define art for you, too.
Now, I'm not saying the effervescence of humanity as put to canvas is legally defined. There is no way to quantify the blood, sweat, and tears put into a piece. (Which, if you are sweating and bleeding, why you'd want to do it for something that isn't yours is beyond me.) But can the courts decide who makes money off it and who is the original creator? You bet your sweet ass they can. And this gets back to "Fanartists don't know shit about copyright law" that I mentioned in Part 1. "Who are YOU to say what is and isn't art!?" I'm not. I'm saying that entire countries do. And break your heart as it may, your fanart is not art defined in a legal sense. Legally speaking, art needs a creator, and you ain't it.
Don't mistake someone choosing not to sue you for copyright infringement as protected rights as an artist. You'd have to make a lot of money or threaten to damage the brand to get a company's attention, sure, but it's not impossible. Feel free to Google MLP: Fighting is Magic if you'd like to see what it looks like when fans get to that point. Legally speaking, when a smackdown happens, it is absolutely black and white. When you die, no one is going to look at your art and say "Behold! This person astonished the world with Pikachu!" No, no you didn't. The corporation is the creator, happy to confine all its fans to the dusts of time. And IF, somehow, you got insanely famous posthumously, the corporation would sue for the right to make your "art" its property and win. The best you can hope for is that somehow your work survives while the corporation and everything about it dies in some apocalypse so that no one can put together the pieces. And considering corporations nowadays are A) legally considered people with free speech rights and B) effectively immortal, those are pretty slim chances.
"Who are YOU to decide what is and isn't art!?" If I were Hasbro, or Nintendo, or Disney, I absolutely could when it came to your fanart of THEIR shit. And if you learn nothing else from all of this, learn that. At any point, and at any time, the corporation can step in and say "I own this" about ALL of the work you've done in their circles, and they would have absolute legal precedent to do so. Legally speaking, all the "art" you do for them belongs to them. Legally speaking, there is no difference between "Pikachu" and "Pikachu drawn by you." Legally speaking, they created that art and you didn't.
"It's still art!" I mean, if you say so. But erasing the individual creator from the creative process seems weird to me. Fanartists are artists who create art, except without legal recognition as creators. You are not the creator in the legal or magical dream world It-Just-Came-to-Me-I-Interperate-the-Soul-of-the-Universe way, so ... what's left exactly? For you to invoke creatorship?
What do you call art without a creator? If art is defined by the personal human expression of individuality, and that personal expression is erased, you're missing a critical part of the definition of "art".
"Fanart is art!" Sure it is. In every way but the real way. And honestly I think that's what pisses people off. Heart of hearts, the fanartist knows all he has to offer the world is a weaker interpretation of somebody else's ideas.
"You are not allowed to participate in/manipulate/criticize the system if you hate fanart!"
Yeah I can. Pfft. That is the dumbest argument I've ever heard. If you don't like that I can shit on fanart while making money off of it, be mad at the system that lets me do that. That's what I was trying to get you to do anyway
One of the major critiques in Part 1 was that the system makes us perpetrators and victims at the same time: we can't NOT use cellphones whose materials cause massive environmental degradation and were assembled by child labor, because our phones have become a critical part of our society and how we communicate. We can't NOT shop at Walmart despite it's widespread worker's abuse because an amalgam of oligarchical plutocratic laws, stagnant wages, consumer bifurcation, monopolies, and the death of the middle class doesn't give us any other option to make a dollar stretch as far as it can.
I can't NOT sell my book on Amazon because to do so would utterly cripple my ability to sell a book period, and that is exactly what I'm criticizing as part of the fanart landscape. If I want to draw work that isn't mine but honed to perfection by million-dollar corporations, well then I'm all set! But if I want to sell original work as an individual artist, I'm already at a disadvantage, and if I criticize that disadvantage in any way then I should just leave the system (regardless of how inescapable that system may be) because otherwise I don't have any integrity. I'll point out the obvious: that is not how anything changes or gets better. And the idea that fanartists who either obliviously or willfully violate copyright have more integrity just because they enjoy the system and I don't is ridiculous. Original artists have no other option but the current system, which is currently disadvantageous to the non-corporate entity, and that's what I'm criticizing.
"Your art sucks and your writing is atrocious, so you don't need to worry about people stealing or fanarting over your shitty books!"
I mean, thanks for the hate and all, but that has nothing to do with whether or not fanart is art, or if the corporatist landscape is damaging individual artistic expression.
"Nobody cares about the law! It doesn't matter! Screw you for invoking The Man!"
The law doesn't matter until 'The Only Copyright That Matters is My Copyright' kicks in, but I already made that argument in Part 1. I think part of the reason hardcore fanartists (the kind that screamed at me in the comments) hate hearing this argument is because they know it's the truth. They don't want to be recognized legally and don't want the law to define them as the creator; they just want to exist in the limbo before that that lets them do whatever they want and feel whatever they want. And goddamit their art is just as legitimate as original art except legally and GODDAMN you for making that argument because it's not fair and doesn't matter anyway!
If you type "Is fanart" into Google, the completed prompts include "Is fanart illegal?" "Is fanart illegal to sell?" "Is fanart fair use?" "Is fanart real art?" "Is fanart copyrighted?" and "Is fanart bad?" Kinda tells you everything you need to know about the fanart sphere, even if you didn't want to know.
Leaving aside that yes, copyright becomes extremely important to an individual artist trying to make their way in the world, the legal definition of art has three tiers: creatorship, original content, and intellectual property. And I don't feel like explaining how copyright works, because most people don't understand, or don't care, or both. I've had people taunt me that I should be making the argument that fanart is derivative work, when that is literally, LITERALLY the legal definition of fanart. If it's fucking PIkachu, and everyone who sees it knows it's Pikachu, it's fucking derivative work. It's enough to give me a brain aneurysm. If it's not fucking Pikachu, you're a shitty fan artists and fans are letting you know.
"You're a terrible person for labeling people as non-artists!"
I would like to talk about the concept of neoliberalism for a moment. It's basically the idea that anything can be monetized. Not just goods and services, but beliefs, values, and morals. A lot of corporate entities like to "sell" themselves as not just having something physical to sell, but they sell things like mindfulness, environmental responsibility, social justice. And while it is true that some businesses, at some point, can be genuine in their beliefs, I find it to be an ultimately suspicious capitalist tactic. Because that is exactly what it is.
I'd like to dissect the Colin Kaepernick/Nike thing. Nike used neoliberalism to "sell" the idea of social justice via Kaepernick. They used his image to sell their shoes, and made a contract with him, yadda yadda yadda. And while Nike was selling the idea of social justice for African-Americans, their political donations show that they donate to a totally different system politically. Basically, they donate to a political system that perpetuates the oppression of African-Americans: a system that doesn't think racial profiling is all that bad, a system that thinks yeah, it's good for 1/3rd of the African-American male population to spend time in jail, the very system that Colin Kaepernick protested by taking a knee.
Now, there's a lot to take apart here. A lot of shades of grey, like is Kaepernick a sellout? Did he sell his soul and morals? Or did he try his best to get his message out there using the corporate machine? Does Nike's effort contribute to an important social conversation by bringing it front and center? I don't know. That's not what I'm interested in talking about here.
What I'm interested in is the videos where people burned Nikes. Because that was fanart.
These people might have burning Nike shoes, declaring their protest of the company. But they'd already given their money to Nike. They advertised for them, and regardless of the PERSONAL FEELINGS of the person burning the shoes, they couldn't escape the confines of corporatism. One way or another, they were giving free advertising, giving fanart, to Nike. One way or another, they contributed to that company's bottom line. Regardless of their attempt at using their personal voice and creation, it was eclipsed by the much more powerful corporate voice. These people either ended up motivating other people to go buy Nikes, because they agreed with the neoliberal "social justice" being sold, or, in order to burn shoes, they gave their money to Nike already so the company could use it to influence political processes. Unfortunately, everything is politics these days.
And that is ultimately what concerns me about fanart. Because of what fanart represents. Corporatism and corporations already have a stranglehold on our lives. On what we do and buy and think. And my issue with fanart is my issue with corporatism. What you are doing and saying with fanart is often blindly consumerist. An artist is not blind or consumerist. "Oh my god, it's not that serious, bro." "You are overthinking this way too much, it's just fanart."
But you get mad at me when I say I can sell fanart, too. You get mad at me when I say you're not an artist. You get mad at me when I invoke legal copyright.It's just fanart. I know why I'm getting upset over it. So why are you getting so upset?