Fstoppers Original: The Stolen Scream

Fstoppers Original: The Stolen Scream

What if you took a set of images that became so popular that it was used hundreds of times all around the world by hundreds of artists, businesses, websites, and publications? As photographers, it's what we all dream about but what if you were never paid for your work? What if you weren't even given credit? What if your images were stolen for years and you never had any idea? If there was ever a video to share, this is it. This is Noam Galai's story.

Youtube version

How I met Noam
Last year I was up in NYC for 2 weeks and I posted on Fstoppers that I wanted to have lunch with random Fstoppers readers for the next 10 business days. Each day I had lunch with a new reader and I met Noam at one of those lunch meetings.

Noam started telling me the story of the stolen scream and I was shocked. How could a set of images become so popular around the world without the creator knowing? How could Noam have such a positive outlook about his image being stolen so many times?

Why I made this video
Months went by and his story kept playing through my mind. I told every photographer I knew about his story and everyone was as captivated as me. It slowly dawned on me that I had to film a video and share his story with the world. Noam is an incredibly quiet and shy person and although he wasn't very excited about being on video, he finally agreed to let me film an interview.

My take on Noam's story
I'm not going to write out his whole story here because it would be impossible for me to write all of the details. Instead, I want to write about my personal experience and take on Noam's incredible story.

When Noam first told me about this I asked many of the same questions that people do when they first hear the story; "how much money did you make?" Have you sued any of these companies?" Do you watermark your images now?" I couldn't understand why Noam was so cool with people stealing his work. It wasn't until I got to interview him that I understood his point of view and how hypocritical my views were.

There is no way to know for sure but I bet if Noam had watermarked his images from the start, none of this would have happened including the Glimpse Magazine cover. The people that were looking for "free" images online would not have contacted him if his images were watermarked, they would have simply found another image to use. By allowing his images to be public, Noam has gotten to experience something that many artists would give anything for. In my opinion, this experience is worth more than any advertising agency could pay for the image. Noam has made almost no money on these images so far, but I believe the money will come. I know many, if not most of you, will disagree with me but I see Noam's Stolen Scream as an amazing example of art and the power of technology. I believe everything worked out for the best.

Who among us hasn't watched a copyrighted video online? Haven't we all illegally downloaded music or at the very least accepted a burned CD from a friend? How many of us currently have copied software on the very computers that we are reading this on? I'm not saying any of it is right but I think we have little room to point fingers.

Learn more about The Stolen Scream
To connect with Noam, learn more about his story, and submit more "scream" finds, check out www.thestolenscream.com. To help Noam make back some of the money on his image, buy some swag from his newly created store. I just bought a shirt yesterday.

Indonesian Translation Version:

Polish Translation Version:

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BLK PXLS's picture

The start of something HUGE!!!!!!!

Great video again!!!

Lee Morris's picture

This story is going to start a heated debate. All I ask is that if you found it interesting, please share it. Let the battle begin.

its scary to see hvow easy it is to have ones images "stolen", but yeah, if you at the same time can live from other of your photo-related work, or just do this as a hobby, wouldnt anyone want to have ONE of their images used around the world, from gigantic companys to the demostrants in Iran, even tough they maybe never get paid, for that ONE image. Can it help them, or will it do no good ? I dont know, but maybe Noah will in a couple of years. =)

Sorry for the typo, NoaM of course.

Check out http://www.photoattorney.com

Register your photographs with the U.S. Copyright Office!

I have so much to say, but speechless at the same time! This is just absolutely wrong on so many levels, but revolutionary at the same time. It reminds me a lot of the famous Che Guevara photo by Alberto Korda!

In this day in age, we should be past the stealing. But I guess it's just begun!


unfortunately, the only way to not have your pictures stolen so easily is to not post them on the web.
It sucks so many douchebags just take without asking.

Douglas Sonders's picture

i hope a lawyer sees this and sees the potential and helps him

Wow. Makes me change the way i look at Flickr and other sites like that. I don't even wanna put my personal vacation pictures up without a watermark now. Thanks for putting this guy's story out. Its nice that you guys use this platform to help the little people.

I was mad for Naom. Especially the graphic designers/photographers that have stolen his work.

Getty Images...you are wrong...love that!

Lee Morris's picture

Isn't anyone happy for him though? I must be the only one that sees all of this as a good thing.

Wow, I wouldn't even know who to sue first...I completely agree with him in that when it's being used for graffiti and other forms of non-profit art I would probably be glad. Of course some credit for the work would be even better. But when people start making that much money on art that was stolen from someone else it's just downright horrible. I can't imagine making that decision before putting it on a shirt saying "no we don't need to pay anyone for this just go find something on flickr." I know this is an extreme case of what could happen but it just discourages people from sharing photos online through this type of service. And that is frightening.

Holy crap! It really is such a double-edged sword. Obviously, as an artist you hope to reach the broadest audience possible. But to have people commandeer your work-- steal it and spread it-- is so wrong on so many levels. As a former lawyer who left the practice seven years ago to pursue photography full-time, I would love to give Noam hope. The unfortunate reality, however, is that this thing has grown so big that nobody can rein it in at this point. As a fellow photographer/artist I am outraged for him. I have never posted my images on flickr...and now I most definitely never will.

Patrick Hall's picture

I've always personally run my photography business more as a service and getting money up front for my work rather than from royalties and prints. Licensing is def an important issue that should be taken seriously but I can see it in a positive light like Lee is suggesting too. I don't think Noam ever meant for this image to "sell" and it's not a traditional commerical image. That isn't to say he shouldn't be paid for his work but I personally think there is a difference in uploading a random fun photo and getting some traffic out of the blue vs going all out on a photoshoot and then having one of those images stolen and sold for a profit. But then again, I've never created an image seen around the world as much as Noam scream image :) I agree with Jeff, this is most definitely a double edged sword!