SES Volunteer's Association of Western Australia Incorporated

One Association - Many Values

14/03/2023 – Taking operational pictures

Taking photos whilst deployed as Volunteer Emergency Service member

Have you ever asked yourself “Who has control of photographs or videos taken by an SES volunteer while deployed and who takes photos or videos of incidents not related to the emergency service deployment?

And what about the situation when photos and videos are taken as part of the deployed role?

Michael Eburn, PhD, Australian Lawyer, addressed a question asked by a correspondent about control of intellectual property and copyright while persons are deployed as volunteers by an emergency service.

Answer: It would depend on all the circumstances.

  • First of all, it would depend on the terms of any membership application and whether it contained an express

provision assigning copyright in any works produced.

  • Second and I think this is more likely, it would depend on whether the works were produced whilst the member was acting under the ‘direction’ or ‘control’ of the Even where the production of the photo is not part of the task if a member is deployed to say fight a fire they are under the direction of control of the state even if they stop to take a photo of the fireground.
  • Finally there are other policies relating to discipline and conflict of interest that may be breached by taking photos particularly where access is limited so the person can only get the photo because they are a member of the emergency services, where there is a conflict of interest or where taking photos of crime or rescue scenes.

Michael Eburn, PhD, writes in a recap of his thoughts:

“if the photo is taken by a member whilst at the staging area where they take a photo of the crew they’ve been working with for the purposes of putting it in their photo album (physical or electronic) as a keepsake of the deployment. I also cannot see how the service could own the copyright of photos taken of the scenery in downtime

i.e. photos taken ‘while deployed … [but] not related to the emergency service deployment’. It’s different if the ‘photos and videos are taken as part of the deployed role’ and in particular if the specific role is to take photos.”

All those issues are discussed on the Australian Emergency Law website in links to earlier posts in Michael’s article Taking photos whilst deployed as a volunteer emergency worker – Australian Emergency Law

Discussion on the law that applies to or affects Australia’s emergency services and emergency management, by Michael Eburn, PhD, Australian Lawyer.