Drone photographer challenges Alamy and Express over use of aerial school fire image

The original aerial image from Eddie Mitchell of The Academy, Selsey, on fire. Picture: Eddie Mitchell

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.

How Alamy sent out Eddie Mitchell's aerial image on its live news feed but with the wrong attribution
How Alamy sent out Eddie Mitchell’s aerial image on its live news feed but with the wrong attribution

“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.”

Eddie Mitchell with his drone
Eddie Mitchell with his drone


9 thoughts on “Drone photographer challenges Alamy and Express over use of aerial school fire image”

  1. You do not need permission of the police or the fire service to take photographs with a camera or a drone and God forbid the day when we do.
    let’s get that fact corrected immediately!

    1. Yes you do at critical incidents, flying near or over people, in case fire personal, ambulance crews, police is against ALL CAA regulations, if you hinder the emergency services in anyway this again goes against CAA rules, flying in built up areas, again needs several safety measures/permissions/restrictions in place.

      Emergency services, most of them use their own drones, so flying yours near a fire means that can’t put theirs in the air, so again means you are ‘flying recklessly’

      Common sense is used by most, there are of course the doughnuts.

  2. The guys not making himself any friends. Mistakes happen. And £400 seems like a air enough offer for a pciture in the Express

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  1. If you are a professional, it Would seen that respect and courtesy Go Hand in hand. There are Many occasions where flying a drone Would raise cause for concern, ie over an active scene. Be it fire, ambo or Police. It Seems that Young Eddie is setting a good example that perhaps others should follow. As for using His pictures without prior consent, this is a clear, pay for them or face a civil case in court. SIMPLES

  2. This guy is threatening court charge to small businesses who have inadvertently used ‘his’ material in blog posts and the like. Pay him £500 else he’ll take them to court. Not a good representative of the photography world. I’d encourage small businesess who have similar experiences to add comments to this artcle.

  3. Theft is hardly a mistake. Not many pro snappers need the Express, takes three months to get paid, and pro photographers don’t use Alamy, they farm out pics themselves, your obviously not a photographer.

  4. If pro photographers don’t use Alamy why are images from Zuma,DPA and Action plus sports available on the Alamy live news feed this morning?

    Another question is how did Alamy get the image of the fire? Who uploaded it?

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