German chefs can claim copyright over the arrangement of food on plates


Originally published at:

How rats can swim up your toilet to terrorize you

I, on the other hand, can claim copyright on how their food is arranged in my toilet bowl. If I didn’t already have a full plate I’d start a new food review blog up based on that premise.


Poop never goes out’a style!


vomit however is coming back in a big way.


What if I re-arrange the food, then photograph it?


So once I take a bite and create my own variant on their work what happens?


Of course, the next thing is that tourists will now see this little notice when they sit down to dinner in Germany:

This meal is not available to diners from your country due to a copyright claim from GEMA.


“no photographs of your food allowed” signs in restaurants

Is this really a thing?


One of the signs to ignore. Or to read as “please do not use flash”.


I would like a photo of the bandaid I discovered in my meal. Dueling lawsuits!


Sometimes it can’t be helped. The restaurants in my town have been slow to adopt HTML5.


You can always do without the dancing graphics. Rarely does it add anything worthwhile.


Technically (and largely quoting Wikipedia), German law knows no copyright (exclusive rights to copy granted to distributor), but rather author’s right (exclusive rights to profit from one’s work granted to authors) and weaker “Geschmacksmuster” (design patents). “Urheberrecht” can’t be relinquished (there is no “public domain” in German law). The food thing is obviously a design patent. Yes it’s legalese, but an article on a legal issues that starts out by cobbling together common law with continental European civil law just falls flat.


copywrite this, bitte.


Yes, but not that common… yet.

edit - I have only seen it personally as a polite request on the menu. I have seen articles where it is as a sign and less polite.


We do have the public domain here in Germany, but you don’t get to put your stuff into it deliberately except by dying – your stuff will enter the public domain 70 years later. (Hitler’s Mein Kampf, for example, will enter the public domain on New Year because Hitler died in 1945. The copyright to that belongs to the state of Bavaria, and until now they have used this to keep the thing from being reprinted in Germany, not that it wouldn’t be easy to obtain from elsewhere if one wanted to. They’re now frantically searching for a way to reassert this after the copyright on it expires. So far the idea of extending the copyright term, Bono/Disney-style, has not been put forward.)

As far as the food thing is concerned, a work of art must generally be reasonably creative to be eligible for protection. Simply speaking, you don’t get copyright protection for food that looks nice on the plate just because food on a plate looks nice to hungry people; there has to be some sort of artistic creativity involved, and merely ladling out a bowl of stew any way it comes out of the pot won’t cut it. So copyright protection for the arrangement of food on a plate, even in Germany, is likely to be the exception rather than the rule, since most eateries tend not to put a large amount of creativity into plopping down your schnitzel next to your fries.

This has nothing to do with the fact that as the owner of an establishment you get to forbid people to take photographs of the food, much like you get to forbid people to dance on the table in their birthday suits or otherwise annoy the staff or other customers. Copyright doesn’t enter into this at all.

Anyway, suing your customers for taking photographs of your food is a pretty safe way of pissing them off and ensuring that they will not only not return to your establishment but also tell all their friends what a jerk you are and not to go eat at your place. You would have to run a pretty exalted food temple to get away with this. In the highly competitive world of average restaurants this is unlikely to do you much good at all, especially since you would have to prove actual damages. Not surprisingly, even though the court judgment in question has been around for a while, no chef has ever sued anyone in Germany for taking a food photograph.


But once the food has been served to me, isn’t it MY food? Don’t I OWN that food? Can’t I do whatever I want with my food? Is it DRM’ed food? Am I only renting said food?


The entire concept of copyright (promotion of the arts and sciences by providing exclusive rights for a limited period of time) has been completely turned on its head. Copyright as currently understood doesn’t promote anything so much as it holds things back. This ruling from Germany, at least as described here, is beyond idiocy.

BTW…work for hire. If I buy the food, it’s mine, and the rights to it are mine. The chefs gives up those rights when they sell it to me.


So all you have to do is move the food around a bit then it’s no longer copyrighted!


In a sense, yes.