Case Studies/DeviantART

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License Used
Image, MovingImage
Adoption date unspecified
photography, images, design, community


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Page Importance: A-Class
Page Quality: High
deviantART is an online community dedicated to showcasing art as prints, videos and literature.

Creative Commons is much needed ammunition in the battle against digital theft or “borrowing”. =SeverinaSnape, deviantART, 23 November 2006


deviantART (abbreviated to ‘dA’) markets itself as the ‘world’s largest, most vibrant and relevant online community focused specifically on ART.’ Founded on 7 August, 2000 in California by Scott Jarkoff, Angelo Sotira and Matthew Stephens, dA today boasts a catalogue of over 55 million artworks called ‘deviations,’ from over 4.5 million registered users, known as ‘deviants.’ The site features a wide variety of creative expressions including animations, photographs, web skins, films, and literature, which are categorised within the customisable dA gallery according to a comprehensive structure. Members are able to form communities of interest through ‘dAmn,’ the deviantART Messaging Network, a real-time chat system which is divided into channels in addition to #devart, the official channel, and #help, the dA assistance channel.

The site is based on a subscription model of $US24.95 per year for a premium ‘Prints’ account. By subscribing, the user will earn 50% of the revenue gained from printing canvases, calendars, mouse pads, postcards, t-shirts, and magnets, for example, above a pre-set ‘base cost,’ such as $0.32 for a 4x6 inch print. Free membership allows a deviant to accrue 10% of revenue gained from the sale of their artwork in the dA Shop, which was originally dA ‘Prints’.

dA allows advertising through its adCast service, with non-profit and community-related products receiving a discounted rate in view of the site’s commitment to helping artists raise their profile and share their content. Payment is per click, with 1,250 clicks currently costing $US50. Partners include art groups, zines, and promoters of skins and themes.

Website development has occurred in versions, with upgrades being released more or less on an annual basis. A recent addition to version 5 in December 2007 allowed users to categorise their gallery art into folders.


As at 30 April 2008, deviantART has:

  • Comments 715,658,622
  • Deviations 55,339,243
  • Favourites 297,270,537
  • Forum Threads 1,081,331
  • Journals 12,272,022
  • News Articles 31,302
  • Notes 110,272,749
  • Poll Votes 1,299,233
  • Polls 201

License Usage

‘The best way to avoid infringing on the rights of another creative person is to use your skill, talent and imagination to create your own completely original work.’ (

deviantART launched a new, streamlined uploading system incorporating a Creative Commons licence generator on 14th November 2006. As with all generators, deviants are able to select the licence they wish to apply through deciding on whether to allow commercial use or modifications. The site specifies ‘none’ as the default. By opting for a CC licence, the linked CC logo and licence description appear next to the user’s deviation.

The site’s copyright policies relating to submissions and reuse are specified here. This policy emphasises that respect for an individual’s original artwork should be maintained, creating a ‘beneficial and positive atmosphere for all dA visitors and members.’ When made aware of copyright violations, by the owner of the material or through anonymous reporting, deviantART administrators will delete the infringing material immediately under s. 512 of the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998. Parties believing that their works have been removed in error have recourse to the filing of a counter notice through a help address.

In this way, the dA administrators attempt to balance two primary and often conflicting goals: firstly, to allow site members to express themselves within reason with as few restrictions as possible while nurturing an environment of creativity, learning, and talent; and secondly, to protect the members of the community, to the best of their abilities, from infringement of copyright, discrimination, harassment, and prejudice.

Downloads of deviants’ tutorials and stock photos are also available. An example is *redheadstock’s tutorial on the use of brushes and colours in Photoshop, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 3.0.


Faced with wide-spread appropriation of original artworks published on deviantART, the dA community celebrated the introduction of Creative Commons licences as a measure of protection that goes some way to preventing the practice, or at least making others aware of the users’ rights. This option was seen as preferable to ‘spoiling’ artwork through the use of watermarking technologies.

Announcing the Creative Commons submission process, deviantART beta tester ‘SeverinaSnape’ further explained the rationale behind the introduction of the licences:

‘”Ripping” is as common as Anime here at deviantART. As if deviants didn’t have enough to content with from other, quite often naïve deviants who don’t realise that they are not free to just take one’s work [to] use it as they wish; we now have to deal with international websites dedicated to the art of taking, displaying and using our works without our knowledge or permission.
Well – dA has a significant new feature which we should all become very familiar with. It is much needed ammunition in the battle against digital theft or “borrowing”. Incorporated into the submissions process is the ability to license your work through the use of a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons helps you publish your work online while letting others know exactly what they can and can’t do with your work.’

Reactions to the introduction have been positive:

‘This is very useful, and I’m sure MANY people will enjoy this. Thanks for doing this.’ (`layzbutt on 23 November 2006)

Pre-empting the site’s introduction of the Creative Commons licence generator, ~qoucher proposes the licences as a way to prevent work being stolen in December 2005:

‘[F]rom what I understand, a company called Creative Commons offers free tools for having a copyright license on your work. I hear quite a bit about work being stolen and DA having all sorts of problems and what-not, so maybe this just might help.’

The Ubuntu development community, of the world’s third most popular desktop operating system, is currently offering a competition for the deviantART community to redesign the look and feel of the Ubuntu 8.10 distribution, to be released in October 2008. They have called upon artists, illustrators and photographers to design original wallpapers that match Ubuntu’s colour palette. These wallpapers must be i) beautiful; ii) original artworks, submitted by their authors; use Ubuntu’s existing palette; iv) CC licensed; v) be suitable for children and different cultures.

‘Ubuntu 8.10’s theme revamp should engage with the large community of Creative Commons artists at DeviantArt.’ (

Media Support Creative commons stamp by *engine-kyo