A Sydney-based photographer is suing the Daily Mail for copyright over what he says is a repeated failure to properly record and pay for using his photographs.

Richard Milnes lodged his claim in the Federal Circuit Court, but the Mail has not yet responded with a defence and did not appear at the first directions hearing yesterday, which has been listed again for next month. In an affidavit lodged with the court, he claimed that of 30 photographs of his that the Daily Mail published between August 2012 and March 2015, less than 25% were correctly reported, meaning he was only paid for a quarter of his work that was published.

Milnes said he tried to claim the money through his agency Demotix, to no avail, and was referred back to the agency from the Daily Mail when he went to them directly, and again received no response when he approached the outlet with the help of the union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

He’s claiming $5450 for the images used and the time he has spent chasing the debt, as well as other costs, and told Crikey he’d initiated the court action in the hope the Mail would settle and he’d be paid for his work.

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“It’s safe to assume if only 25% of my images are reported then it’s probably the same for other photographers,” he said. “From their point of view I thought it’d be a small amount of money.”

The images Milnes is claiming for are a mix of genres, including an exclusive shot of an Australian Islamic State recruiter, red carpet photo-calls, and events.

He said he was worried that the Daily Mail might stop using his images due to the court action, given that the photographs it buys makes up about half his income, but said he needed to hold the world’s biggest news website to account.

“They’re not the only offender, but they’re probably the biggest offender,” he said. “I’ve caught other media outlets using my images without having paid me, and normally they just pay up when I contact them. I was forced to go down this route to send this message. It’s my salary and I need to get paid.”

Milnes is representing himself in court, and said he hoped the court action would help him and other photographers in future when chasing money they’re owed by news outlets.

“I do intend to look into taking others to court. I’m trying to make them realise I’m not just going to be fobbed off when they owe me money. They’re the biggest media outlet in the world, they’ve got huge amounts of money and they don’t want to pay small people like me who struggle to make a living,” he said.

Milnes said his former profession as an accountant had helped his case. “I meticulously keep track of any images of mine used online,” he said. “Most photographers would just rely on their agency to pay them the right amount of money.”

The Daily Mail declined to comment.

UPDATE 6/4/2018: Milnes said that since he first spoke to Crikey the Daily Mail has advised a photo agency that they will no longer use his images, a claim the Mail has also declined to respond to. Milnes said he would be looking into whether he could increase the damages he was claiming.

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