When I read Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig, the thing that honestly affected me the most was that Walt Disney copied Steamboat Willie, or Mickey Mouse. I wouldn’t exactly say I was heartbroken, but I did feel kind of icky. Or ripped off. (I mean, really? Disney’s signature character is copied.)
Another thing that stood out to me is the bit about the doujinshi artists. I wonder how many of those “copycat” comic illustrators moved up from making small changes to somebody else’s comics, and started their own comics. Maybe they just needed inspiration and practice before they were sure enough of themselves to take that first step. (Even American architects copied Roman work when building important US structures, like the US Supreme Court building and the Jefferson Memorial.) None of our ideas are really our own. Look at it this way, the Bible is really old, right? I wonder how many ideas for superhero powers came from Biblical stories. Samson had super strength, just like Superman. Jesus controlled water, just like Aquaman. Moses turned a staff into a snake (think Harry Potter). I guess Marvel and DC aren’t so original.
I think about this kind of thing when I write now. I know that a lot of people “copy.” But I don’t want to necessarily copy, I want to read and think. I want to put my own spin on things and add my own opinions. In the past, I was too terrified of my high school teachers to even consider using someone else’s ideas. I’m starting to realize that it’s really not as big of a deal as people make it out to be. Sure, plagiarism isn’t good and you shouldn’t directly copy someone’s work without giving them credit. But a lot of the time all you really need is an idea of someone else’s to get you rolling and thinking. After that, you can come up with your own ideas because of the experience you have.