How do you know when your blog has made it in the Food Blogosphere? Is it when you get a threatening email from the head chef/owner of a restaurant telling you to remove a review you did of their restaurant. If it is, then "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to I Eat Therefore I Am".
First let me set up the story and then go on to discuss the legality of taking food photos in restaurants. I got an email today supposedly from Matt McConnell, head chef and owner of Bar Lourinha. I had been to Bar Lourinha not too long ago and had written a review. Please go and read the review here first before you read on so I don't bias your judgement.
So you've read the review hopefully, sounds quite fair right. I didn't love the place but didn't say anything defamatory. I gave my honest opinion and even recommended people should still go if they like crowded places. Well, apparently Matt doesn't like my review or objects to something within it.
Here is the email I got from Matt.
To whom it may concern,
please take us off your web site!!!! Firstly we are horrified that you thought it would be okay to take photos of our food in our restaurant without our permission, if you do not take this ridiculous information of your web site in the next three days I am prepared to seek legal advice and sue you. You have breached a million different copyright laws and should be very careful.
37 little collins st,
melbourne+61 3 9663 7890
My initial thought was that it was more spam email. But then the email address is quite convincing. It's not your typical yahoo or hotmail account, but that of a large ISP with Matt's name as the address and his full name as the person sending it.
So if it really is from Bar Lourinha, firstly I'm honoured that a)they read my blog, and b)that they even care what I write about them. This blog isn't that widely read and even if it was a totally terrible review, it would not come close to influencing as many people as the glowing review from The Age's John Lethlean.
If this is just a joke, its pretty elaborate whoever's done it. Maybe its his PR team trying to generate more buzz for the restaurant. That's very good work if it is because I find it totally hilarioius. It's worked too because here I am talking about the issue and giving them more publicity. However, I think they may have targeted the wrong blog, they should have chosen an even more popular blog.
Anyway, the issue I have with Matt is that he could have nicely asked me to take down the photos, in which case I would have. But to threaten me with all these legal jargon and bring in the law for what I see is such a non-issue is unbelievable. I've sent a reply asking him what is exactly wrong with my photos and review. I haven't claimed that I saw dead rats in their kitchen and then went and photographed it. I have merely photographed the food, of which I have paid for, and posted it on the web, like a million other food bloggers. Is his objection to my review due to it not being totally glowing? If his objection is purely due to the photos, I'm sorry to say that I feel I am well within my rights to photograph the food and then post it.
From the quick research that I have done, it would seem that once a photograph is taken, as long as its not defamatory and not used to generate revenue, the owner of the photos has copyright on it and can do as they wish. Even if there was a sign in the restaurant saying "No Photograph", they have the right to kick me out, but still not take my photograph from me. There was no sign at all in the restaurant telling me not to take photos. If there was, I wouldn't have taken any photos. You can't change the rules afterwards and tell someone they can't take photos of your restaurant without them knowing at the time.
Generally when I take photos in restaurants, I just take photos of the food and the restaurant in general. I don't take too many of the whole place with flash as that would disturb people. I also don't zoom in on individual people and invade their privacy. It's always photos of the crowd in general, my friends/family and I, and of the plates of food. Whether restaurants like it or not, with the rise of digital cameras (every phone now has a fairly good camera even) the number of people taking photos will just keep increasing. Here is a great article about food photography and some of the issues that may arise.
As for opinion regarding the legality of taking photos in restaurants, most people's opinion is that it is legal. I would need to speak to an IP lawyer to be sure, but some replies at eGullet forums from lawyers would suggest that it is totally within a person's legal rights to take photos of their food. For some resources about the legality in Australia, take a look at this website. From reading it, my interpretation is that I am totally within my right to take the photos and post them on my blog.
What is your opinion on this issue? I'm not going to step down and remove the photos unless its the last course of action before going to the courts or if I get an apology. I don't like being bullied, especially when I don't think I have done anything wrong.