Photographer Sues Woman Over Her 90-Year-Old Grandmother’s Wallpaper

photographer sues grandmother photo wallpaper copyright infringement

A photographer has sued a woman who posted an image of her grandmother’s apartment, that featured his photo-based wallpaper, on a vacation property rental website.

In 2012, the grandmother renovated her apartment and legally purchased a photo-based wallpaper that included images taken by photographer Stefan Böhme.

A close-up image of a wall constructed from unevenly stacked, rectangular, flat stones in various shades of grey and brown. The stones are tightly fitted together, creating a dense, textured pattern.
The photo by photographer Stefan Böhme at the center of the copyright dispute. Photo from court documents.

Three years later, the then 90-year-old grandmother was no longer able to live in her apartment alone and moved in with her granddaughter.

So that she could maintain the costs of caring for the elderly lady, the granddaughter took over her grandmother’s apartment and rented it out as a vacation property. The woman advertised the apartment on a rental website and included photos of the property on the listing.

However, eight years later, the granddaughter received a warning letter for copyright infringement from a Canadian company because she had posted an image of a room in her grandmother’s apartment that featured Böhme’s photo-based wallpaper.

A screenshot features a living room with stone accent walls and a TV above a white fireplace. The room has gray and white furniture, green accents, and contemporary decor. Multiple image thumbnails are visible, displaying different angles of the same living room.
Stefan Böhme’s photo was spotted in listing photos for the apartment. Screenshots from court documents.

According to a report by German news publication, the photographer is now suing the granddaughter in Cologne Regional Court in Cologne, Germany.

How Wallpaper Became a Case for Copyright Infringement

In the lawsuit, Böhme alleges that while he may have authorized the printing of his photo on the wallpaper, he did not authorize the “reproduction” of the photo on the wall in the image posted by the landlady on the vacation property rental website.

Böhme claims that the “making available” of the photo of the wall is therefore an infringement of copyright law.

A comparison of a stone wall panel and a living room featuring a similar stone wall. The left shows a close-up of the stacked stone design, while the right image displays the wall in a room with a grey couch and floral pillows, highlighted by a red arrow for emphasis.
A comparison of Stefan Böhme’s photo (left) and the wallpaper seen in listing photos (right). Image from court documents.

Böhme is also alleging that the grandmother infringed his moral rights because she did not find out that he was the photographer behind the wallpaper and did not credit “Stefan Böhme” on the property rental website. reports that the photographer, who has a company registered in British Columbia, Canada, has been sending out warning letters and filing lawsuits in Germany. The German publication says that these lawsuits also extend to the upholsterers who install his photo wallpaper on behalf of customers and document the work online.

According to, Böhme previously tried to sue the granddaughter in the courts in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart in Germany, but the photographer was unsuccessful in his legal attempts there. The Regional Court and Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf ruled that Böhme had implicitly granted a license by selling the wallpaper on the one hand and that his lawsuits were an abuse of rights on the other.

While other German courts have rejected his argument, the photographer is now hoping for a victory when his copyright case is heard in Cologne Region Court on June 27. Böhme previously won a similar copyright case regarding an image with his photo-based wallpaper at Cologne Regional Court last year. This lawsuit was also against a landlady of a vacation apartment.

When it comes to copyright, the Cologne Regional Court says that a strict duty of care applies and that “anyone who makes use of other people’s photographs by publishing them on their website must ensure that this is done with the permission of the authorized person.”

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.