Intellectual Property

Pho-to fury: London restaurant told to “go f-ck yourself” by Melbourne rival that allegedly stole its images

Andrew Sadauskas /

Pho-to fury: London restaurant told to “go f-ck yourself” by Melbourne rival that allegedly stole its images

An image used by Mama Pho on the Westfield site.

An Australian restaurant that was accused by a popular London eatery of stealing photos of its food has allegedly responded by telling them to “go f-ck yourself”.

The incident comes after fast food chain Nando’s found itself in hot water last year for publishing photos, owned by News Corp, of a fight between casino mogul James Packer and Nine Entertainment executive David Gyngell on its Twitter account.

In the latest case, London-based Vietnamese restaurant Pho Restaurant recently noticed that photos of its food, which had been shot by leading food photographer Paul Winch-Furness, had appeared on a website for Australian counterpart Mama Pho.

Mama Pho, which is planning to open its first outlet at the Westfield Doncaster shopping centre in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, also allegedly used the images to promote its business across a number of social media sites.

Winch-Furness told SmartCompany when Pho Restaurant asked Mama Pho to remove the photos, its owners were greeted with a surprising response.

“Pho Restaurant in London tweeted yesterday, including me in the tweet. They had noticed their photos being used on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, by a restaurant in Melbourne – Mama Pho. Pho Restaurant commissioned me last year to take the photos, of their food, in their restaurants. We had no dealings with Mama Pho,” Winch-Furness says.

“After Pho Restaurant sent the Tweet, Mama Pho sent them a direct message telling them to ‘go f-ck yourself. hahahaha’.”

Winch-Furness says the incident quickly attracted attention on Twitter from others in the food industry who were “obviously shocked at Mama Pho’s behaviour”.

“The majority of stolen photos were from Pho Restaurant, but when we used Google’s Image Search on the other food photos they were using, they were all stolen – from restaurants in London, New Zealand, and Australia – even the photos purporting to show freshly made spring rolls and a bun,” Winch-Furness says.

“They eventually removed the photos from Instagram and Facebook. They took most photos down from Twitter, but are still using some – none from Pho Restaurant anymore. All photos of food were not theirs.”

According to Winch-Furness, Mama Pho’s use of the images was not just limited to social media sites.

“They were also using one of my photos on Westfield’s site under ‘dining’ section – I sent details and my original photo to Westfield and they removed it immediately and apologised. Obviously it was not their fault, and they were not involved,” he says.

“Some of the photos are still being used on the Urbanspoon website – but I have sent details and expect them to be removed shortly.”

Intellectual property lawyer Steve White told SmartCompanythe option of legal action was open to Pho Restaurant.

“If content is directly taken, then copyright infringement will arise. That includes things like icons, text and images,” White says.

“Ultimately, you’re in business to protect your name and if you’re losing sales then you need to look at legal action.”

“So the question is whether you compete in the marketplace or compete in the court room. Sometimes you need to compete in the courtroom.”

SmartCompany attempted to contact Mama Pho but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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