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Is Posting Restaurant Pics Actionable


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#1 Busboy

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 02:39 PM

DC Chef Carol Greenwood, known for her fine cooking and inflexibility, has sic'd her lawyers on blogger DC Foodie, for taking and publishing pictures of his dinner. "You are hereby notified that should you show any of the said pictures on your website, an action will be brought against you immediately for specific damages, together with the court costs and attorneys fees in the said action."

Story here.

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#2 Hest88

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 03:00 PM

That's the most obnoxious thing I've heard of in a long time.

#3 Jmahl

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 03:02 PM

I don't have a D.C. license so with that disclaimer; I thought that a restaurant was a public place and that as a guest you are an invitee. And as an invitee I didn't hear it mentioned that you were required to sign a confidentiality agreement before placing your order.

On the other hand, if they continue to insist, you might have a counterclaim for malicious prosecution and emotional distress. Have you lost sleep over this? Do you now hear voices and feel that you are being followed? Because of this event is life no longer fun?

Talk to your lawyer.
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#4 divalasvegas

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 03:27 PM

So let me get this straight, according to Chef Greenwood's attorney Marvin "The Mangler" Wagner:

The food and contents of the said restaurant are propriatary and confidential.


You mean that food I pay for still belongs to the restaurant? What exact law is he citing?

Apparently Chef Greenwood has never heard of bad word-of-mouth, blogs, eGullet, or the internet in general. What an idiot.

Perhaps we should submit respectful inquiries to her attorney to direct us to any specific laws prohibiting paying customers from taking pictures of their meals and the strict legal guidelines defining how said photos can be used.

BTW, Attorney Wagner, the word is spelled: "proprietary." Bitchy, but I just felt like it.

Edited for grammar and additional comments.

Edited by divalasvegas, 02 January 2006 - 03:31 PM.

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#5 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 03:29 PM

A new low in hospitality.
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#6 Jason Perlow

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 04:11 PM

I wonder if this jackass restaurant would change its tune if he posted his photos on eG as opposed to his blog.
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#7 KatieLoeb

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 04:17 PM

It is bitchy and stupid and very inhospitable, but if one was asked specifically NOT to post the photos (even after they were taken) then all you have to do is comply with their request and post about what assholes they are. Oh - and never patronize their establishment again. That will do them more harm than photos of the food. And this is about revenge, right? :rolleyes:

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#8 culinary bear

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 04:21 PM

One might not like that fact that 'unauthorised' (i.e. unprimped, untouched, un-fucked-around-by-food-stylist) photos abound of your food, but the question remains :

If you object to this degree, what are you hiding?
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#9 cdh

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 04:29 PM

That is pathetic. If I ever come across an establishment where this Carol Greenwood character cooks, I'll be certain not to patronize it.

Proprietary and confidential, eh? Keep it then. .. I don't want any.

I'd not take it out on the attorney, though... just doing what his client was itching to pay him $$$ to do.
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#10 dcfoodie

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 04:36 PM

Thanks Busboy for posting this over here and thank you for your support.

#11 Holly Moore

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 04:39 PM

Is this not a reporting / freedom of the press issue? What's the difference between a thousand word description of a dish and a picture of the same dish?

At least she didn't call the cops.

I'm hoping DC Foodie calls the lawyer's bluff and publishes at least a token picture.
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#12 JeanneCake

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 04:53 PM

I don't know that I'd want to call the attorney's bluff - he gets paid big bucks no matter what DCFoodie does... what's interesting to me is that the chef apparently didn't invite DCFoodie to come back at another time and take pictures ... I mean, come on... if you're gonna get some publicity, good is better than all this negative stuff! And if you're that much of a control freak...you deserve what happens next...

How many others would be willing to go and photograph their meals with no intent to distribute/publish/etc..... imagine all those flashes going off in the room!!! :raz:

I'm curious about what the chef had to say over dessert.....

#13 Grub

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 05:22 PM

But, but, but -- does anyone know exactly what legal rights a customer/chef really has in this situation? )Obviously, I realize that it might be best to back down from such a confrontation simply because of the legal hassle.)

If you buy a product, I would think you have every right to take pictures of it, or do whatever you like with it, because you paid for it, and it's yours. You don't sign a confidentiality agreement when buying a car, or a sandwich. So it seems a given, that you have that right, as a customer.

But does the same right apply to taking pictures inside a business? As they say, they reserve the right to refuse, but still...?

#14 dcfoodie

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 05:30 PM

But does the same right apply to taking pictures inside a business? As they say, they reserve the right to refuse, but still...?

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From what I've found in my research that last couple days, a business can ban photography and kick you out if you ignore the rules, but the rules have to be posted somewhere for people to see.

Otherwise, when a photographer takes pictures, they are theirs to do with as they please.

Also, if someone says that you can't take anymore photographs, then you have to stop, but anything you've taken up until then is yours.

#15 Curlz

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 05:34 PM

For those who don't follow the DC-area food scene (I do since I have family down there), CG is known for her, um, shall we say, ATTITUDE. I've yet to eat in her restaurant because I don't like what I've read about her (i.e. many rules in her restaurant, lack of flexibility), but I've also read that her food is good. Despite all of this, she does manage to stay in business.
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#16 molto e

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 05:43 PM

Buck's Camping and Fishing or Fishing and Camping has a recipe for "Puttanesca di Worms" that has been in Chef Carol Greenwood's family for years. She does not wish her avant-garde plating of the dish to go public :laugh:
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#17 cdh

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 05:50 PM

Sounds like the legal framework is a matter of the customer's license to be on the proprietor's property. Copyright law is pretty clear that the pictures you take are yours and only yours. If the chef has any copyrightable subject matter that you took a picture of, then you might need rights, but I really doubt that the composition of a dish on a plate is copyrightable subject matter... (probably too utilitarian, though it might be artistic enough, and consequently a potentially very expensive issue to litigate... if she can afford the fight herself...)

So, you, as an invitee on the restaurant's property are licensed to be there subject to their conditions, one of which might be that you don't use a camera. If your license to be on the property expires because you use your camera, you might be liable to the owner of the property for trespassing on their land (damages are usually minimal)... but the pictures are still yours. You definitely own the copyright to the pictures, and unless you agreed to a nondisclosure agreement you can probably do with them as you please.

I've never heard of a statute that allows such an extreme right to control publicity. But then again, I'm not a DC lawyer, so things may be crazy down there. Hope somebody steps out and offers to do a pro bono fight for you if you need it. Sounds like this individual is behaving badly, and making her atty do things that bring the profession into disrepute. (both hers and mine.)

Edited by cdh, 02 January 2006 - 06:24 PM.

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#18 KatieLoeb

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 06:33 PM

Despite all of this, she does manage to stay in business.


So does the Olive Garden.

There are undoubtedly folks that will continue to patronize establishments regardless of whether the service is bad. Maybe they don't know better.

There are folks that will patronize establishments where the food is just plain bad, or the place is filthy or resting on their laurels or whatever. Happens all the time. Clearly those customers don't know better. There's little hope of making them learn because sadly, just like taste in food, what some people are willing to put up with is also subjective. This is exactly how a lot of bad restaurants stay in business.

I'd be interested to see if this attitudinal chef can withstand the bad publicity this will undoubtedly cast upon her. No matter how good her food is that old saying just isn't true. There IS such a thing as bad publicity.

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#19 andiesenji

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 07:04 PM

I suppose that if they have a notice "posted in a prominent area visible to the public" banning photography in their establishment, then they are probably within their rights.
However, if they do not have such a notice posted, or they have at any time allowed TV cameras or any person other than an employee to take photos in their establishment and the photos were published in a newspaper or magazine, (or on line) then it would be my opinion that they do not have a leg on which to stand, in spite of the reputation of the attorney.

However one does have to get a release if a person's face is in the photograph and that photo is published.

I have often taken photos in restaurants - in fact at one place that offered a wonderful brunch, the chef at the service line had two bus boys come over and lift the covers of the chafers so I could more easily take photos, then two more chefs came out of the kitchen and posed so I could get them in the picture also. They were obviously very proud of their presentation and were happy to have me taking pictures. They even moved an ice sculpture so I could get a better angle on it.
Some of the other patrons also pointed out some of the things I had missed.
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#20 Busboy

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 07:15 PM

We should be clear. Buck's Fishing and Camping is no Olive Garden, and Greenwood is no hack. This is, on the other hand, her third (fourth?) restaurant. One can't but wonder if her inflexibility caught up with her on the previous efforts, forcing her to move on when other, similarly talented chefs have kept their doors open -- that being said, there are many other reasons that deserving chefs move on.

Buck's is a more informal and less expensive place than her previous effort (the only other iteration I'd visited) -- almost a neighborhood place. I doubt she's as reliant on good reviews at Bucks as she was at Greenwood's, because there's less pressure to attract big spenders from across the region. In addition, she seems to have ceded a lot of power and visibility to her partner, whom I met once and who seems a much more mellow guy.

Given the broadness of her reputation, I assume she's found a niche where she doesn't need the people who don't like her, and the people who are willing to handle the hassles of her restaurant, in order to enjoy the food, are numerous enough to keep her in business. There's a continuum of preferences out here -- bad service (not that I've had less than very good service and pretty good food on my two visits to Buck's) puts me in a snit much quicker than many others, whereas I can tolerate mediocre cooking on the theory that, hell, the wine tatses good and we'll be out of here soon. Maybe she gets the other type.

I posted this on an earlier Greenwood's thread, now mostly out of date, here.

"I don't cook to make people happy. I cook because I'm an artist. And food is my medium. I have no need to nurture the world. 'You're in the service industry.' I didn't get into it to serve people. I got into it because it was the least objectionable commercial enterprise I could think of."

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#21 KatieLoeb

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 07:37 PM

We should be clear.  Buck's Fishing and Camping is no Olive Garden, and Greenwood is no hack.  This is, on the other hand, her third (fourth?) restaurant.  One can't but wonder if her inflexibility caught up with her on the previous efforts, forcing her to move on when other, similarly talented chefs have kept their doors open -- that being said, there are many other reasons that deserving chefs move on.

Buck's is a more informal and less expensive place than her previous effort (the only other iteration I'd visited) -- almost a neighborhood place.  I doubt she's as reliant on good reviews at Bucks as she was at Greenwood's, because there's less pressure to attract big spenders from across the region. In addition, she seems to have ceded a lot of power and visibility to her partner, whom I met once and who seems a much more mellow guy.

Given the broadness of her reputation, I assume she's found a niche where she doesn't need the people who don't like her, and the people who are willing to handle the hassles of her restaurant, in order to enjoy the food, are numerous enough to keep her in business.  There's a continuum of preferences out here -- bad service (not that I've had less than very good service and pretty good food on my two visits to Buck's) puts me in a snit much quicker than many others, whereas I can tolerate mediocre cooking on the theory that, hell, the wine tatses good and we'll be out of here soon.  Maybe she gets the other type.

I posted this on an earlier Greenwood's thread, now mostly out of date, here.

"I don't cook to make people happy. I cook because I'm an artist. And food is my medium. I have no need to nurture the world. 'You're in the service industry.' I didn't get into it to serve people. I got into it because it was the least objectionable commercial enterprise I could think of."

Carole Greenwood, Washington City Paper, 4/5/04

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Charles:

I wasn't suggestion that Buck's is comparable to Olive Garden, only that there's all manner of places that stay in business, mostly because tolerances and taste are subjective.

I do wonder if Chef Greenwood is going to be able to withstand the backlash of a frivolous lawsuit against a paying customer. That's likely to leave a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths, even her most loyal clientele. I work in the restaurant industry and know first hand that the customer isn't always right, but you do your best to accomodate politely. I also realize I don't have to like the chef to enjoy their food (I can think of many examples of this), but I'd have a hard time dropping any money into the pockets of someone I found to be a reprehensible ass no matter how good their food is. I'd rather put my money in some one else's register. Someone I like and respect as a person as well as a chef. I suppose being in the business I hear more "insider" info than the average consumer so I can take that into account instead of just the usual reviews.

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#22 Chris Cognac

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 07:56 PM

Hell, I would call up the local paper and tell my story....I wonder how much Chef Greenwood would like that! I am sure that there wont be any photos of her food in the story, but she can seee how much "words" can effect things as well......sounds like she does not have confidence in the food she makes....Wow....
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#23 monavano

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 08:09 PM

I have a feeling this is going to end up on Tom Sietsema's Wednesday chat on www.washingtonpost.com. :wink:

#24 Busboy

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 08:11 PM

We should be clear.  Buck's Fishing and Camping is no Olive Garden, and Greenwood is no hack.  This is, on the other hand, her third (fourth?) restaurant.  One can't but wonder if her inflexibility caught up with her on the previous efforts, forcing her to move on when other, similarly talented chefs have kept their doors open -- that being said, there are many other reasons that deserving chefs move on.
Carole Greenwood, Washington City Paper, 4/5/04

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Charles:

I wasn't suggestion that Buck's is comparable to Olive Garden, only that there's all manner of places that stay in business, mostly because tolerances and taste are subjective.

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Sorry. Bad writing (my specialty). Meant to clarify the thread so that someone skimming through wouldn't be confused, not clarify your point.My bad.
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#25 Chris Amirault

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 08:23 PM

If ever there has been an opportunity for an act of foodie civil disobedience, this is it. If I were in D.C., I'd gather a slew of friends, make reservations for the same night, buy a couple dozen disposable digital cameras, and go have dinner. Oh, and I'd want a non-dining friend with a good DV camera to catch the fun.
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#26 stuart_s

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 08:48 PM

I posted this on an earlier Greenwood's thread, now mostly out of date, here.

"I don't cook to make people happy. I cook because I'm an artist. And food is my medium. I have no need to nurture the world. 'You're in the service industry.' I didn't get into it to serve people. I got into it because it was the least objectionable commercial enterprise I could think of."

Carole Greenwood, Washington City Paper, 4/5/04

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You have to respect her chutzpa.

A similar thing happened to me several weeks ago. Unfortunately, we had just been served the appetizers and I hadn't even had the chance to try them. The owner came over and was immediately insulting. When he asked me to either stop taking pictures or leave I assume he imagined that I would stop taking pictures. I decided to leave but he wasn't satisfied. When I wouldn't erase the pictures that I'd already taken he snatched my camera. I think we both threatened to call the police and I think we both did. The police officer told them to get my camera and then had to tell them a second time more assertively. He asked me to erase them as a personal favor.

The pictures are on flickr. I also wrote a lengthy blog post. Realistically a couple dozen people may have seen the pictures on flickr but I didn't post it along with the story. The blog post had an even smaller audience. Not very satisfying retribution.

The proprietors' reasoning in the DC case and in my case is just baffling. There's absolutely no upside to their policy and so many downs that I stutter when I try to articulate them.

Anyway, the legal issues seem to be fairly well covered by other posters. It was perfectly natural to assume that I could take pictures as I'd done it a hundred times before. They had the right to ask us to leave but the pictures are ours.

So, if you're ever in Cleveland don't go to Taza. The labneh is pretty good but the staff isn't particularly hospitable.

But mostly, I'm jealous. I want a cease and desist letter.

#27 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 09:57 PM

I'd not take it out on the attorney, though... just doing what his client was itching to pay him $$$ to do.

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A good attorney talks his clients out of doing stupid things!
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#28 mochihead

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 10:05 PM

I'd not take it out on the attorney, though... just doing what his client was itching to pay him $$$ to do.

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A good attorney talks his clients out of doing stupid things!

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Double amen to that! I work for an attorney (dad) and he always advises his clients when they're doing something stupid. If they still insist, he shows them door and recommends they go elsewhere.

Well, if Carol Greenwood wanted to do reverse psychology to generate publicity for her restaurant, she's certainly doing it. Or maybe she subscribes to there is no such thing as bad publicity? Sheesh. And they talk about us musicians being divas and having too much artistic temperment!

#29 IrishCream

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 10:29 PM

I find this topic fascinating. My lawyer husband is no help...he says that owners of private property have the right to make the rules. So my question is what about take-out? How silly is it that we can be banned from photographing food INSIDE the restaurant but not outside?
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#30 sacre_bleu

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 10:37 PM

This is utter BS. That chef must have been at the end of a very bad day. They don't have a leg to stand on. A posted no-photograzphs zone would give them a figleaf of legal argument, but the assertion is ridiculous on its face and would be laughed out of any court it was filed in.

Are birthday/wedding/anniversary dinner photos banned too?

Crazy.

Chef meltdowns are never pretty.