For all of you who love to photograph food and post it on social media, here are some bad news – if you live in Germany. You could be breaking the law! “Why so?” you might ask… Well, the food that a chef has so lovingly plated, counts as his creation, and therefore photographing and sharing without permission would be a copyright violation. Strange, but true.
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So, what’s the deal exactly? Could you be prosecuted and fined for photographing and sharing your beautifully plated restaurant meal? The short answer is yes. The long answer is, “under certain circumstances”. According to the Die Welt newspaper, you could be breaking copyright laws by photographing and sharing images of “elaboratedly arranged food” without permission . You have not created it and although you have paid to eat it, you don’t own copyright of for it. If you want to be on the right side of the law, you will probably have to ask for someone’s permission and then share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
It’s hard to see how this would actually be enforced as there are so many restaurants and chefs who would really appreciate the free publicity. Most professionals would jump at the opportunity to have someone showcase their work, so why would there be an issue? Well, for one you are not able to control the quality of the depiction. If a customer takes a picture that doesn’t do the dish any justice, it ends up looking really really bad. And yes, food is a notoriously difficult subject to photograph.
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Whether there is an argument for or against this, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has decided that “elaborately arranged food” needs to be protected by copyright as it is an “artistic property of the creator.” German Lawyer, Niklas Haberkamm explains that,
In any case, this law make sense only at the “advanced level” of plate design and this is how it will be applied. So, you won’t be getting fined for an image of your excellent burger. Of course there have been no complaints so far that would indicate that such a law is indeed needed, but if it is applied a person who ignores it would face a fine and an appearance at court.
I doubt that anyone in their right minds would actually sue a customer for taking a picture of a plate of food – no matter how bad the picture is.