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
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!

Terry Talbot's picture

Nice blog. Serious issue, the theft of an image for commercial gain, but there's little one can do about this, besides taking care with posting images to the internet, I think it's to be expected that thus kind of thing will continue happening ... Terry

Alan's picture

I love this story. While I’m upset with other people profiting from the image, I’m inspired by the movements using it. I also hope that the many photographers out there that are stealing music for their own websites will see this and make the connection.

Noam Galai's picture

If you liked my story, and interested to learn more about it - please go to this article. Its a long piece with a lot of cool new details about me and this story.
"The Man Behind the Scream: Noam Galai" http://goodmenproject.com/arts/the-man-behind-the-scream-noam-galai/

stakx's picture

Great video and story, Lee. I'll find the time to come back to this and read the comments. Thanks for this site, the high-quality videos, and terrific community.

Beach's picture

@Lee and Dan Hebert RE: The Wall, I do seem to recall some art that featured a pre-Floyd scream. What was it called again?? Hmmm... oh yeah - THE Scream...which hangs on a WALL. Pink Floyd straight ripped the image AND the title off!! :P And as a further parallel, that damn painting seems to get stolen (literally, physically, right out of museums) like every 6 months.

louise's picture

Congrats on an interesting video.I think that one of the biggest problems on the net is that people are not aware of how to protect their work when they upload it to a website. Before people post images to flickr that they should familiarize themselves with the different settings. If you don't want people to download and use your images you can actually pick that option and people then cannot use your images without contacting you first and asking you for the actual file. http://www.flickr.com/account/prefs/downloads/
Unfortunately there are people out there that know how to take advantage of other peoples lack of knowledge and would not hesitate to use an image without asking.

Beach's picture

@Louise - no matter what you do it's a matter of using a simple screen capture to obtain the image. If it can be seen, it can be stolen. Those settings are certainly nice to have, though, as they stymie less-savvy users and at least make others go to some extra effort to obtain your image (and maybe more likely to move on to another one that is easier to take).

Philippe's picture

From a photographer standpoint, this is a nightmare. But speaking of the power of images, it's a proof. The image is just perfect for what it's used for. So perfect, it goes viral, IMHO.

Michał Czekański's picture

Here is a translated into Polish version: http://gfoto.pl/Video/150.aspx
and on a youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVaOoj3SId0

Anonymous's picture

I see Fstoppers is going "Artivist"... well, I think this just prove that making money with a camera means you also have to be creative to find new ways to sell your art. What happened to Noam is not big deal, I think technology has changed the old rules and we have to adapt or disappear...

Think BIG water marks lol.

Anonymous's picture

I of course totally agree, as most would, that ANYONE making money off of your image(s) has both a moral and legal obligation to work WITH you (moneywise or at least permission & attribution-wise) BUT...

Through your feelings about money-makers using your image being not-ok in parallel with your saying that non-money-makers/artistic-use is "cool" (you're ok with that) aren't you muddying the argument about copyright-violation being bad; Aren't you setting a double-standard?  You're condoning a behavior on the one hand and reprehending it on the other, solely on the basis of whether or not the user has money; Isn't this attitude wrong and bad for photography? I'm not saying that you can't give your permission to the penniless artists... but that I think it's unhealthy for photography to feel that copyright violation is ok in some situations... in ANY situation. 

There's nothing wrong with being happy that poor moneyless artists use your image, but saying that you're ok with them having done so in the absence of your permission is condoning the very behavior that you reproach the rich of having. So call it as it is... you have no problem with your image being used without your permission and without attribution... Your only problem is that you didn't/don't share in any money that's involved when there is some to be had (and I agree). But I think that as much as 'having money' shouldn't give people the 'right' to violate your copyright... 'not having money' shouldn't give people that right either. 

Posturing as altruistic towards the penniless and victimistic towards the penniful, based on the same behavior,  sends a confusing message about what that behavior should be... condoning an act based on the size of the wallet strikes me as wrong. 


Anonymous's picture

sue them

Nathan O'Kane's picture

While I agree that it was wrong for others to use the work of Noam, all of the people on here saying, "oh how dare they, those bandits!" If you have ever downloaded a song or movie, you are just as at fault. I'm not accusing anyone, but there is sure a lot of piracy going on and I'm sure some of the thread contributors have pirated at least something in their lifetime.

Laurien Renckens's picture

see also the stolen screamgift of @laurienrenckens to Noam Galai in New York. 


 I'm on your side with this Chase, I have gotten into quite a few 'discussions' with ppl online about it.  I would simply be proud to see an image used, and would hope people would just like it. 
I am NOT a professional, but amateur photog, I dont want or need to make a living from it. 
Therefore I come from the angle that art should be free for the viewing, as looking at a piece can change someone slightly, and that is an honor beyond monetary systems.
As you can imagine, I have been slammed hard by pro's and amateurs alike for this view, too bad.

Joseph Teeter's picture

I completely agree with you Lee. I think that even though he hasn't been paid a whole lot thus far, the attention the image has garnered is worth more than the licensing fees. The image has had a real political impact, and a cultural one as well.

Luke Johnson's picture

All he needs is one good lawyer and he will be raking in major $$$.

Andrew Mercer's picture

I would find the biggest company using my image and sue them.. you would win and it would establish your ownership in a court of law. A lawyer working on a no win no fee basis could spend a few years going after illegal company use and claiming compensation... and would probably be happy to get guaranteed work.
I think you'd still come out at the end with millions.