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.



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:





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Previous comments
Lee Morris's picture

@Bruce wow! that is a crazy story

Tengku Jasshwa's picture


Interesting indeed, by looking at all the comments, we all can assume that the first thing most artist would commonly do is to figure out how to claim back the 'damages' in the form of monetary compensation.

While litigation option seems like a heroic war thingy to be done, the effort in claiming back an unknown worth of art (in this case, a single photograph of 72dpi posted online) is certainly gargantuan. Given the fact that the usage of this has been spread worldwide, who knows how long, how much and how far this can be stretched to. Noam would have to divide part of his life NOT being the creative person he is, fighting this wars.

Since the damage has been done, somehow, i see this as a great opportunity value as opposed to the monetary one. From my point of view, he now has one of the largest portfolio based on a single image. He can easily create a phenomenon out of this, gain some momentum for his presence and land some pretty awesome gig.

I would do that if i were him.

Anyway, great video fstoppers.com. Keep 'em coming yeaah!

Ralph de Pagter's picture

Hi, I think the best way for Noam now, to earn his money, is to launch his own site with his original posted image of that scream, with just one large button: PLEASE DONATE.

Joshua Cunliffe's picture

I'd never suggest suing everybody that has done him over, but there are clearly some big players there! If you look at people like Daniel Morrel and Mannie Garcia, who's images have arguably been taken and worked on without their consent, there is definitely grounds worth following up on. If people are making substantial money off of the back of this image, then surely it is worth following? Although yeah, money is a clear issue; I guess it's a matter of choosing your battles.

Donnie Bell Design's picture

Very cool. I've often wondered what happens in this case. Obviously, it seems like something should be done to prevent theft of pictures, but I can't see what would happen to correct this if something hasn't already happened.

Bruce's picture

’m a bit surprised at how happy he seems that his photo has been stolen and profited from by the thieves. I can understand the desire for recognition and getting the photo out there as an artist. But seeing others take credit and profit from it is sickening.

Just another reminder to watermark your photos (especially when posting them on Flickr and similar sites that people think are sources of ‘free’ photos) and protect your copyright.

verhext's picture

He should steal it all back by publishing a gorgeous coffee table art book of every instance he can find of his face.

Angel's picture

@verhext but why would anyone buy it when they can see all of them for free?

Lee Morris's picture

@Angel, I would totally buy it. Not only would it support the artist, it would be interesting to see them all in print form all in one place. Same reason why I bought a shirt from him :)

Beach's picture

@verhext - that's a beautiful idea, and I'd be right there in line as well to grab one

Noam Galai's picture

People suggested here a lot of cool ideas. Coffee table art book, 100 limited edition big-sized prints, gallery with many different artists doing their take on the srceam...

thanks for the ideas.. Hope to make at least some of it happen

Daniel's picture

Hey Noam,

at what size did you originally post the images on Flickr? I am asking because I wonder if it is a deterrent for people to steal an image if it's only available at a relatively low resolution.

I just started to think about joining Flickr (I know, I am a couple years late). But stuff like this makes me think twice. Yet I wonder if I would be "safe" if I only posted images with a resolution no bigger than - let's say - 800 x 800 px, because maybe nobody would use such a small resolution picture for something like a cover. Like you, I am not so much concerned with street art, but with companies making a profit or other photographers claiming my work as their own.

Samuel's picture

I guess he and I had the kinda same idea !!


Noam Galai's picture

@Daniel - Hey, I posted 4 of those pics in low-res (~800pixel) and one in hi-res. usually flickr allows you to control if people can access the hi-res or not... mine is set to not. i think its also not possible to right-click and save the image. but people print-screen and stuff.
Anything i posted on flickr in the past 3-4 years is in h-res.

I will be the first one to recommend on using Flickr! as i said before - its the best photo-sharing site in the world. yeah, some images got used without my permission, but i also got a lot of clients through there (for my other work like sports/music/portraits).
I recommend it.

George Popescu's picture

Stolen faces, stolen names! I guess it's good his photo is all over the world, however he should get compensated for it in some form or another. There's a limit to freedom, and this is another reason why I don't have any photo of myself online anywhere.

Lee Morris's picture

Warning: those who use fake names and emails to make comments will not have their comments approved. Stand behind your comment with a real name and email.

Brian's picture

Great doc, guys. I saw Chase Jarvis posted it today too continuing the legacy of "repost" with or without permission!

Samuel Maurin's picture

On second thoughts, and after seeing you now sell tshirts with your scream on it...
Didn't you steal the idea of making t-shirts from the people who first stole your photo ?
I know, I read Philip k. Dick too much !)

Shane Parker's picture

I really don't understand the "who cares, look at all the attention he's getting" attitudes being expressed. Maybe I grew up in a different time, but this whole story makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Theft is theft, two wrongs don't make a right, etc. etc. If we support this, how does it not give these companies more ammo to do more of the same in the future? Sure, this guy happened to get a lot of press for this whole debacle, but what about all the photographers getting ripped off every_single_day who don't get press, compensation or so much as a blog mention? The very principles governing our core industry are at risk here.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy this guy is getting a ton of press, but that doesn't make any of this right. I left this story feeling sick.

Mary Danielsen's picture

I was just having this very discussion - about copywriting your work - on Linkedin. Thank you for telling the story. BTW, love the blog.


Lee Morris's picture

@Shane, I don't think anyone is saying this is right but in my opinion most of the uses of this image were artistic. If there was one person to go after, it's the publishing company of the book. Other than that, the money we are talking about is so small it's really not worth freaking out about. The Chili magazine? maybe that is worth $200, the deck of cards? probably worth a couple hundred as well.

Someone just sent me a picture of an image of mine being "stolen" http://jukasarts.deviantart.com/art/stylewalker-WIP-188793908 and I personally don't see this as a big problem or any different than listening to a burned CD that my girlfriend made for me.

Shane Parker's picture

Lee, I really don't care that much about the artistic uses (for non-profit). However, the whole feeling around this blog post and video was that the photographers photos were used en masse [for profit] by lots of companies all over the world. Either this blog post, video and surrounding buzz are building up something that isn't there, or I'm completely misinterpreting what has happened? I don't have all the details on who has used his photos for profit, I'm only going off the general feel and limited info of this whole fiasco as represented here and elsewhere. Forgive me if I'm off base, but I still don't feel *good* after watching the video for a second time.

Lee Morris's picture

@Shane, I don't think youre off base at all. In fact you probably feel the way the majority of photographers do. I just realized that I have "stolen" so many copyrighted things in my day that I have a hard time attacking others for it.

Brian's picture

@ Lee I'd like to compliment you on a great, short documentary. Have you considered re-editing it and entering it in festivals? You know there's not a lot of this kind of material out there (short docs) but there's still an academy award for it. :-)

Great work and a fascinating topic.

Dan Hebert's picture

I hate to burst this guys bubble but this was not even his idea in the first place. Anyone over 20 will recognize this image as a blatant rip off of an ICONIC image of the 80's music scene. Perhaps one of the world's perfect albums and also a KILLER film, this image was stolen originally from here:


Tell me I am wrong.....

Lee Morris's picture

@Brian, Thanks! interesting idea. Why would it need to be edited?

Lee Morris's picture

@Dan, you're wrong :) Noam commented on this but I had to cut it for time. He had never seen it when he shot the pictures. Plus, besides the fact that it is someone screaming, it doesn't look the same at all.

I'm sure there were a million works of art with people screaming before Pink Floyd put it on their album.

Joshua's picture


I am both a photographer and an attorney. Even if the image is similar to another, copyright vests in the person who shoots the image the moment that they shoot it. There is no need to register images at all. Unless he posted this image under a creative commons license, Noam def has an intellectual property case against all of those who have made money on this work. The Digital Millennium copyright Act lays it all out.

All he needs to do is collect the evidence from the graphic designers, card makers and tshirt sellers etc. He can then go after whichever one made the most money to get a judgment, then settle with the others who any made a small amount. (if no one made money from it, it'd be pretty worthless to try to court route, but because major book publishers, and graphic designers are doing, they'll actually have the resources to pay after he wins.

Aputure's picture

This has inspired me to start searching for my images on tineye.com, and indeed, I'm finding unauthorized usage on the 2nd photo already...

Kon Iatrou's picture

Great doco. It pays to see who's using your images. I found three model portfolio photos of mine by accident being used by a weight loss company in Melb/AUS, about three suburbs away as their after shots. When my solicitor approached them via a letter they claimed they had purchased them but in the end they took them down but it cost me $700 in legal fees - what a waste of $$.

My solicitors went against my instructions and were heavy handed in their approach instead of asking if they wanted to buy or at least credit me and add a link to our website.

Next time I'll do it myself business owner to business owner with the aim of a better result ... and no legal fess!

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