A freelance photographer plans to take picture agency Alamy and the Daily Express to court in a payment dispute over his striking aerial images of a blazing school fire.
Eddie Mitchell claims to have been the only person with permission from fire and police services to fly a drone over The Academy in Selsey, West Sussex, as it went up in smoke on 21 August.
His pictures appeared in national newspapers and TV reports of the fire.
But he said one of his images was wrongly attributed to photographer Paul King and West Sussex Fire Service by Alamy, and was then published by the Express and the Times (Mitchell says he has settled with the Times).
The photographer, who has cultivated a working relationship with the emergency services over 20 years, said a total offer of £400 from Alamy was not sufficient to cover his losses from the error.
“I would probably have been earning between £200-300 per picture in the paper,” he said.
“What this Alamy picture did is it muddied the water by being out there.
“Picture editors were probably saying: ‘We don’t have to have any of Eddie’s pictures for another £150 – we can use the one from Alamy instead’.”
He added: “I would have thought that a company like Alamy, with their ethos of supporting photographers, would have made a decent offer and apologised.
“A £400 fee is quite derogatory for that kind of photograph. Companies like this should be supporting photographers, not disrespecting them.”
Picture agency Alamy claims to have the largest collection of stock images in the world. It also runs a live news feed, which is where one of Mitchell’s pictures appeared under the wrong name, he said.
He claimed the Express has yet to respond to his request for payment.
The Express told Press Gazette it had “no comment” on the matter.
Alamy said: “We are aware of this case. We will respond in due course.”
The British Association of Journalists union is supporting the case for Mitchell, whose aerial work includes the recent bridge collapse on the M20.
He added: “It’s literally every day – including the weekends – that I’m dealing with some kind of copyright issue.”