A picture is worth a thousand words but is it worth a fine?

food photos

Almost everyone has had this experience; you’re minding your own business and get a text or email from someone that can’t wait to share their pictures of what they’re eating. Is it supposed to make us envious that the other person is enjoying something that we can only drool about? Some of the pictures are funny while others are just a way of sharing an experience with others not lucky enough to be there for the real thing.

It’s almost impossible to go on Instagram without seeing thousands of pictures of food. The phenomenon even has a name- “food porn or “food boasting”. You may wonder if the people ever have time to eat the meals they capture with their cameras. It might be time to put down the camera and pick up the fork instead.

Brendan Spaar has been on the sending and receiving end of some great food pictures. A favorite one was taken at a small out of the way BBQ place in Alaska. The surprise of finding great BBQ in Alaska was definitely a “must share” moment. The owners of the BBQ joint were only too happy to have word of their business shared with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, not everywhere is this the case.

Sharing your food with someone might be allowed at some restaurants in Germany but sharing photos of that food could be expensive. Diners in Germany have learned that if you take a picture of a dish in a restaurant without prior permission, you might be violating a chef’s copyright for their creation and can be liable to pay a hefty fine.

Chefs have long been portrayed as being possessive about their “secret” recipes for many of their dishes. Now it seems to have gone a bit past just being annoyed. As of 2013, German law now includes “applied arts” in the list of things protected by their copyright laws. It is now easier for chefs to sue anyone who posts a picture of their food without permission.

The essence of the ruling is, “In individual cases, shared pictures may be illegal. At worst, a copyright warning notice might come fluttering to the social media user. For carefully-arranged food in a famous restaurant, the cook is regarded as the creator of a work. Before it can be made public on Facebook & Co., permission must first be asked of the master chef.”

The law appears to be designed to protect the “masterpiece” creative creations that some chefs take their time creating as signature dishes. However, it doesn’t rule out food from any other type establishment. Unless you have permission to capture the food moment with a camera, it can wind up costing you much more than the price of the meal.

There haven’t been any reported cases of chefs filing suit over pictures yet. So if a visit to Germany is on your Bucket List, don’t forget that a picture may be worth a thousand words but is it worth a fine? Before you decide to snap that picture of the delicious bratwurst you’ve ordered while enjoying Oktoberfest, remember Brendan Spaar’s advice and ask permission.