Photographing Food Copyright Infringement?

There is a new ruling in Germany that it is a copyright infringement to photograph and post images of plated foods presented by chefs.  While many restaurants are embracing the social media phenomenon as free advertising, and even adjusting their menus to be more “Instagram-friendly,” other chefs are less keen on the idea of their edible artwork being broadcast across the world wide web.  I am personally not sure if that food presentation is copyrightable in a way where people should or can’t take photographs, but it’s an interesting concept to explore.

What the article “Photographing Food Can Be Considered Copyright Infringement In Germany (And, Why I Agree)”doesn’t discuss is how the images are being used online.  If one is posting to their personal blog or Instagram account, then there doesn’t seem to be a commercial aspect to it that would allow the poster to profit.

But if the blog the images are posted within is a monetized site that has an ad revenue stream attached to it, then perhaps a deeper look at the copyright infringement is called for.  Or if it’s a specialty restaurant and customers are paying a premium for the dining experience, should that not include an inferred permission to document this experience, like one might do at Disneyland?

I wonder if chefs realize that on many of the social media sites like Facebook, that once images are posted the site has full ownership of the images and that they can use them however they want? (Read through the terms of service at the rights you give away posting on some sites.  I have written a previous post on that concept here.)

As a matter of practicality, I am trying to imagine a scenario where a chef has to grant diners permission to take photos of their food.  Seems feasible (if not time consuming) that this might be enforceable while you are inside a restaurant, but what does that look like with to-go orders? Or catered events? How does one enforce the policy then?

Living in this digital age of information, it’s almost impossible to control the explosion that occurs online.  It’s a plight that commercial photographers face daily.  In fact, it’s a constant issue with my own terra cibus fine art photographs. 

However, there has to be a way to satisfy the consumer and restauranteers.  Perhaps chefs could start producing their own line of postcards, so the diners can buy photos of the food for their own posterity….? #ThinkingOutsideTheBox

You can read the article in its entirety here: