Collective works: the Versailles Court of Appeal confirms that the recipe book “Ladurée Salé” belongs to the category of collective works.


Versailles Court of Appeal, 1st Chamber, 1st Section, 2 March 2021, No. 18/08237

In its ruling of 2 March 2021, the Versailles Court of Appeal clarified the issue of multiple authorship by stating that the “Ladurée Salé” book should be classified as a collective work.  

Different types of creations involve multiple authors. In the event that authors intervene simultaneously in the creative process, two legal regimes must be distinguished: the work of collaboration and the collective work.

What is a collective work and a work of joint authorship?

Article L113-2 defines :

-A collaborative work as “a work in the creation of which several natural persons have contributed“. These are co-authors who cooperate; the ownership of the work is common (for example, a scriptwriter and an illustrator for comics).

-A collective work is “a work created on the initiative of a natural or legal person who publishes it and discloses it under his or her direction and name and in which the personal contribution of the various authors participating in its preparation merges into the whole with a view to which it is conceived, without it being possible to attribute to each of them a separate right in the whole produced“. It is therefore a derogatory regime to copyright that is particularly attractive for the individual or legal entity that has taken the initiative, the direction and publishes it under its name.

A reminder of the conditions of a collective work in the context of a recipe book

In the judgment of 2 March 2021, a chef, an employee of the Ladurée company, participated in the creation of the book “Ladurée Salé” alongside several employees of a publishing house. Following his dismissal, the chef claimed copyright from the company, stating that he was a co-author because of his participation in “the structure and manuscript of the book“.

To this end, the chef put forward several arguments to demonstrate the extent of his collaboration in the work: selection of recipes, selection of dishes to be photographed, preparation of dishes, drafting of the handwritten sections “Advice from the chef”, etc. The Court of Appeal did not finally follow the plaintiff’s reasoning and overturned each argument:

–  For the selection of recipes, the editorial manager was also involved in all decisions related to the selection of recipes, gave instructions while some of the plaintiff’s proposals were not retained. The Court therefore considered that the selection of recipes “was carried out under the direction of Ms A in consultation with Ms C and Mr X, under the control of the communications department of Ladurée“.

– For the selection of the dishes to be photographed, the judges recalled that the plaintiff had no role other than that related to his culinary expertise, and that other employees of the publishing house “took care of the shots and their artistic coordination, areas that did not fall within the chef’s technical skills“.

– The Court then recalled that the preparation of the dishes corresponded to “simple technical know-how, not eligible for copyright protection“.

– With regard to the “Chef’s Tips” sections, the Court noted that it was the assistant chef who had been asked to write them. 

The Court therefore dismissed the employee’s financial claims and applied the conditions of a collective work to the case in point: “the work was created on the initiative of the Ladurée company, which controlled all stages of the creative process, from its conception to its production, as well as the exploitation phase. The contribution of M.X (…) blended into the overall activity of a team made up of employees of Ladurée and independent persons, under the supervision of Mrs A. who built the work by giving instructions according to a framework predefined by Ladurée“.

The judges therefore concluded by recalling that “the fusion of the various contributions, even if they are sometimes identifiable, tended to compose an ensemble conceived and intended from the outset by the Ladurée company as the counterpart to the first work produced under the same conditions, without Mr X demonstrating that it was the result of concerted creative work carried out jointly by several authors“.

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By Raphael DULION and the IP-IT team of UGGC Avocats