What is astounding to me is the self-righteousness, outrage and self-certainty Harris expresses. He is sure about the intricacies of the fair use exception. Maybe because he has no law degree his view is more perspicuous than, say, the folks at the Brennan Center (NYU Law) who on their Fair Use Network page admit that "intellectual property, or "IP," law" is "a mass of confusion for artists, scholars, journalists, bloggers, and everyone else who contributes to culture and political debate." It must be very, very re-assuring to Harris that he possesses so clear a view of such a contested, confusing arena.
Unfortunately for him, Harris's self-certainty has not translated well into the legal arena. In 2006 he lost a case against The San Jose Mercury News for purported copyright infringement.* The newspaper had used one of Harris's photos in a book review without securing his permission. Their defense? Fair Use, of course. Now I am sympathetic to Mr. Harris's concern for his livelihood. And I might actively admire his willingness to fund this case himself. (The PDN story to which I link says he received no funding from major photography groups. Is that because he sought none, or because they thought his suit crackpot? It turns out that Harris is a serial litigant, having previously sued another newspaper. My admiration is contingent on the answers to those questions.) All that said, virtually none of the factors that Harris must've thought held against The News apply to the way I use images and text here. I'd be happy to talk about that if Harris is interested.
What is my point? In his correspondence with Amy Alkon, Harris suggests (referring to me) that "he does not value the very thing he claims to care about." But since he has never so much as spoken to me, Harris has no idea what I care about, and so he steps right in it. (To bad his clarity of vision doesn't help him navigate his immediate surroundings. His shoes must be a mess.) What I value is public debate about culture and politics. And in partaking in that debate here I rely on the conception of fair use that Harris apparently fails to grasp. Harris is a good photographer, although I dare not reproduce any of his work here for fear of falling prey to his litigious impulse. I link to his web page above. He is, though, seemingly a pretty poor source of legal advice. And while I may be a jerk, it seems that I am not alone. The way Harris reaches for epithets first - before bothering to figure out what he is talking about - suggests that he has a propensity to rant that threatens the sort of debate I care about. I would just remind Harris that, as one who himself photographs some in color, he should consider that just maybe the world is not all black-and-white.
* By the way, Amy Alkon, erroneously reports the disposition of Harris's suit. He lost, Amy. That is characteristic of her terribly tenuous connection to the real world. She apparently cannot report even the most basic facts accurately. Given a 50-50 chance of being right Amy Alkon screws it up. That is frightening given her self-proclaimed status as "Advice Goddess."