Digital images, audio and video
Find out how to manage images, audio or video captured for surveillance and monitoring purposes.
Table of contents
As with other formats, you must capture records that document a decision or action taken, or records that are created, received or kept for other business and community requirements.
You don’t need to capture records that are purely personal or transitory (e.g. copies, drafts).
- which images or recordings provide the best evidence or best serve the business purpose–you should only capture those that provide the best evidence of business activity
- if images relate to or enhance existing collections
- if capturing the images adds value–they may be available elsewhere or the resolution/quality may be too low to be useful.
Primary, original and working versions
When extracting footage and images from the original device, there is a distinction between primary, original and working images.
Primary versions are the image, file or recording on the device itself. The primary version must be exported in its native format without compression or alterations.
Original versions are the ‘master’, and the official record. Their integrity must be maintained for the required retention period.
Originals are preserved as exact copies of the primary, with appropriate audit trails. They should not be subjected to processes that cause permanent alteration.
Working versions are copies of the primary or original. Working versions are created if enhancements or alterations of the primary or original are required (e.g. compression, filtering, cropping).
First, transfer images or recordings you need to keep from the device. You will need to complete these steps:
- save a ‘master copy’ as your record
- create working copies for other business requirements, particularly if enhancements or alterations of the original image are required (e.g. compression, filtering, cropping)
- save as much context as you can about the image or video as part of the metadata (basic metadata like file size and date taken will be automatically captured)–additional metadata should include a meaningful title and description (e.g. who or what is featured, what the image or video is documenting, and how this relates to customers)
- save the file in an accessible format
- use policy and procedures to detail how saved images should be named, used and stored (including security).
Once images and recordings have been captured, they must be managed and preserved for their retention period.
Digital images, audio and video must be:
- stored securely and in appropriate storage media
- preserved so they remain accessible and usable for as long as they must be kept
- in a format suitable for their use and retention period
- fit for purpose–content is clear, appropriate resolution and quality, file size, accessibility.
Create a working copy if images are to be edited, made publicly available or used on websites or social media.
It is recommended that agencies avoid storing records in a proprietary, non-standard format.
You can include information about the management of images, audio and videos in your agency’s policies and procedures, especially if they are captured by staff in the field to document or provide evidence of business activities.
Find out about managing records created and stored on mobile and smart devices.
Use of compression
Records should not be stored in a compressed format. Compression can reduce the quality to a point where it becomes unusable and required information is obscured.
If compression is needed, use lossless compression for original versions of images and video as no information is irretrievably lost during the process.
Lossy compression should only be used for working versions. Lossy compression is not reversible and information (e.g. metadata) will be permanently lost in the process.
You should apply appropriate licences when making images available. Each licence provides a range of options with increasing levels of restriction.
The Australian Governments Open Access Licensing Framework (AusGOAL) provides guidance for governments Australia-wide.
Note: Copyright Law in Australia dictates that the photographer owns the copyright of the image unless this is explicitly transferred (e.g. in a contract), or if the photographer takes an image as part of the terms of their employment.
Moral rights relate to the author’s or creator’s right to be attributed or acknowledged as the creator or author.
Moral rights cannot be transferred, however they can be waived.
Find out more about moral rights.
A watermark can be used to reduce misuse or unauthorised distribution of images, or include copyright information or branding with an image.
Watermarks can obscure image content and degrade the image when layered on top.
Watermarks should only be applied to working versions, not to the original version that is to be kept as the official record.
Electronic or invisible watermarks can be used as an alternative to visible watermarks.
Alternatively, control the use of the image by creating working copies and limiting the quality and size, or use digital rights management technology to restrict how the image can be used and modified.
Images and video may contain personal information if the identity of the individual captured is apparent or can be reasonably ascertained.
When taking photos or video, you may need provide a collection notice or ask people to fill out a photo consent form (23 KB).
Check if your agency or parent department has additional requirements–this may depend on the purpose of the photo or video.
Find out more about the collection of information under the Information Privacy Act 2009, the Information Privacy Principles, and National Privacy Principle 1.
Retention periods for images, audio and video will depend on why they are needed.
Images, audio and video that document or provide evidence of a business activity, or are used as part of a specific business activity, should be sentenced using the record class under which all records documenting that activity would be sentenced.
If images are used for multiple business activities and therefore multiple record classes apply, they should be kept for the longest applicable retention period.
Photo consent forms can be sentenced using the General Retention and Disposal Schedule.
Certain digital images may be subject to other legislation specific to your agency as well as the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). You need to be aware of other legislation and requirements that apply to images captured by your agency (e.g. Corrective Services Act 2006, Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000, Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995).
Find out more about capturing and managing digital images, audio and video:
- Australia and New Zealand Guidelines for Digital Imaging Processes, Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency
- Managing digital images as records, State Archives & Records NSW
- Managing 'born' digital images: still photographs, State Archives & Records NSW
- Choosing a format/codec for creating digital audio or video, State Archives & Records NSW
- SRO Guideline: Management of Digital Records (199 KB), State Records Office Western Australia.