Shaun Earl Harris – Defending our Copyright

by | May 19, 2022

by | May 19, 2022

"Gentle in demeanour but strong in his resolve, he educated and advocated generously and tirelessly"

Shaun Earl Harris

Shaun Earl Harris championed intellectual property (IP) and copyright on behalf of all Safreans.

Intellectual property (IP) is the property that emanates from creations of the mind and that can be seen in paper or in form. It includes the work of all creatives. Copyright is the protection of one’s work (IP) by law.

Fair use is misuse.

These were the words of a man whose own creative work was used without payment and without acknowledgement. Shaun Earl Harris understood the term “fair use” as well as how readily it was bandied about. He knew the extent of its threat to creatives in South Africa. Shaun’s experience of copyright infringement was deeply personal but his drive and determination were for collective benefit. As an Executive Committee member of Safrea from 2019 until he passed away in May 2022, he committed his time and energy to advocacy for the right of all creatives to be acknowledged and paid for their work.

Get it right copyright.

Shaun’s work culminated in a collaborative effort among several organisations to respond to the call for comments on the Copyright Amendment Bill (CAB) in 2021. He highlighted the fact that the inclusion of “fair use” in the CAB would leave creatives vulnerable to even greater exploitation by transgressors of copyright, who seemed to be favoured over the creators themselves. He highlighted which sections of our Constitution and of the Copyright Act 98 of 1978 would be contravened if the principle of “fair use” came into effect. You can find more on his work in this regard by clicking here.

Fair use is theft.

The Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry widened public participation and comment on the CAB was again called for. It was hoped that the process would be concluded by the end of 2021.

In December 2021, Shaun’s personal attempts at litigation for copyright infringement had reached an eight-year mark, with no end in sight and little to no support. In January 2022, he resolved to keep on striving. With plans in place to launch a dedicated website on copyright matters, alongside his efforts within Safrea and several unfinished articles, he aimed to bring his efforts “to a pinnacle”, specifically regarding the ongoing debate between the terms “fair dealing” and “fair use”.

Sadly, in Shaun’s last months, he became aware that the call for comments seemed to be related to semantics and wording contained within the CAB rather than the actual contents. It seemed that the term “fair use” was to be included in the CAB after all. Shaun was left frustrated by what seemed to be lip service paid to those who had taken the time to understand the CAB and respond to the call for both written and oral submissions.

Shaun’s work is not done……

It was Shaun who shared “I am always so happy when I awake … it’s going to be another great day” and it was with this attitude that he approached all tasks. Gentle in demeanour but strong in his resolve, he educated and advocated generously and tirelessly.

Shaun went to his rest on 11 May 2022.

The threat to copyright for creatives has not left us. Safrea continues to uphold and honour Shaun’s work as Shaun did for his predecessors. The copyright battle continues and Safrea remains committed to serving the interests of its member creatives.

Hush Naidoo remembers

A tribute to man that helped me see the world in a different light is not easy. I met Shaun about 26 years ago when working on an assignment at Mnet. In his jovial calm way Shaun and I always  worked well together with many a laugh.  We had not seen each other for many years but always stayed in contact.

Shaun was not just a son, father, solider, husband he was a man that saw life through a different lens like all of us creatives here. He saw moments that when captured would turn into lifetime memories. Moments that when looked at evoked the exact feelings you had when you were there, or made you want to have been there. I knew him as that a creative a great photographer

On meeting Shaun that many years ago all I can say is from the moment I met him there was this energy that I cannot explain that I've never found in anybody else he was full of life full of joy and was always ready to help anybody on the creative side. Over the last three years I've been working closely with him as a board member of Safrea on all of the copyright issues trying to get some sort of understanding between creatives - government and our clients on how important copyright is.  I'm just going to touch on the fact that Sean has been in a huge fight with the misuse of one of his images and that has sparked controversy all over I believe that we can use that as a starting point to make our clients understand that they cannot just use and abuse our images without some sort of compensation.

Shaun I was also talking about finding a way to strengthen the creatives by hosting a workshop to discuss things that are affecting the creative group we also wanted to collaborate with a few photographers on an exhibition and I believe that these are some of the things that I would like to still run with and maybe get a working group together to honor his legacy and all our other creatives.

Always when meeting Shaun for a coffee we would always discuss his love for the creatives and his wish for a united group, I believe that we can honor him by doing just that. Rallying and uniting as a strong group supporting each other.

Safrea colleagues and friends paid tribute to Shaun. Here are some of their words:

So upset to hear this sad news.

Condolences to all his family, friends, colleagues.

Such sad news.

I’m still in shock. And I’m yet again under the impression of the fragility of everything and everybody around us.

That's so sad. He struck me as being a really wonderful person - and full of life. May he RIP. Sincere condolences to his loved ones.

He will be missed. May his daughters, family members, friends and community members find comfort at this time and may he be resting as deserved, even if unexpected. 

Shaun was a gentle soul and every interaction I had with him was pleasant and kind. He was fiercely committed to matters of Copyright and, despite numerous personal constraints, served our community tirelessly and without complaint. 

What a shock. God bless his his lovely soul and RIP. Condolences to his family and friends.

Such tragic news. RIP

He was a stalwart fighter for all of our rights, tirelessly working to ensure that copyright of photographers in particular was respected.

Gentle Shaun who was standing up for all of us re copyright.

An ethical colleague that will be missed by all.

RIP Shaun.

Oh my gosh. Can’t believe it. Rest in peace great man.

He was a big blessing in the Creative Industry and to our SAFREA as well.

He will be greatly missed.

I worked with Shaun on a number of projects and learnt a lot from him. He always kept me posted of all his big projects and we were soon to work together on another project.

Shaun Earl Harris