Documenting the Stolen Scream

By Carolyn Edlund



Noam Galai is a young photographer who took pictures of himself screaming a couple of years ago, and posted them on Flickr. A few months later, he was shocked to find images taken from his photo showing up everywhere – on clothing, posters, magazine covers around the world. His image even became a symbol of unrest and revolution in the Middle East.



Noam’s scream photo was blatantly ripped off and sold many times over, being credited to other people, even unscrupulous artists making lots of money selling it. Now he writes about his experience, and where he has found this image at The Stolen Scream.

How do you fight the whole world when your image has spread virally? Or do you? The rampant reuse of this image is clearly a global statement on the impact of his photo. Should he remain flattered and continue to share the many places his scream has showed up? Should he sue somebody?

What would you do?


  1. Where do you even start when you’ve been ripped off that many times? More amazing is how many other artists are willing to blatantly steal and pass the image off as their own. The graffiti is one thing but to take it slap your name on it and sell it as original art is just plain wrong.

    • I agree, Bob. It’s mind-boggling. Obviously this photographer is trying to take everything in stride. He seems more amazed than upset.

  2. I wonder about his Flikr postings. Were they copyrighted?
    You can flag them as copyrighted material and not make them
    easily available for download. That being said, if I want your image
    I’m taking it. Nothing you can do.

    In the U.S. the copyright laws are fairly specific regarding image use,
    fair use, image theft. Although, artists, beware, the laws are changing,
    against you. Let’s not forget Shepard Fairey’s theft of the AP photo of
    President Obama. He lost his fair use case. I suspect this had more to do
    with making profit than actual painting of the photo.

    I agree with the photographer regarding the image being seen and being
    used by other artists for art.

    I think there would be cease and desist letters issued to those using my
    images commercially. After all, if you’re going to be a thief, be a good
    thief. And by all means, credit your sources. It’s just polite. (and it might
    keep you out of court.)

  3. I can’t wrap my mind around it! All of those people selling his pix/face for money, should be sued! No real artist would steal someone else’s work and call it their own. There is another word for individual/s it’s thief and everyone should know they’re a thief! Artist are caught in the cross-hairs of social media! We want to get our work out there, so we try to interact with places like Flickr, Pinterest, etc. It seems as if the word copyright means nothing to folks. And all those expert art people saying stuff like this sooo rarely happens…yeah…right!

  4. This story was so unreal because of the extent of the infringement, which is why I felt I had to post this article. I noticed that Noam Galai has retweeted this post several times. He’s aware of what’s happening with the buzz about his work.

    I would ask him to comment if he likes, and possibly explain whether he plans to sue or if he’s going to use the story to his advantage in selling his own products with the image.

  5. Hey, here I am…
    As you can see, this story is pretty crazy, and there is just no possible way to go after those people/companies – its just too complicated because of how wide-spread it is…

    So on this specific case I pretty much decided to not sue anyone, and enjoy seeing it become one of the most used images around the world. I find more and more uses of it everyday, in many crazy forms and places…
    Not a lot of people can say they created a super-viral photo like that, that is used to bring down governments and leaders of so many countries. Not a lot of people can say their self portrait actually helped change the world in that sense…

    So yeah, I guess with a story like this its just better to be positive and make the best with it.

    I am suing companies who use other pictures i take without permission – if and when it makes sense to sue.

    • Noam, I’m so glad you responded! It’s easy to see that it would be almost impossible to go after so many people when your work is used so virally … it’s like tearing open a pillow and letting the feathers fly through the wind … you cannot chase them all down.

      I’m really glad to see that you are taking advantage of selling your image on your own website, though, because you should be realizing income from it. So, I just placed an order for one of your t-shirts!

      • Thank you for buying my T-Shirt! thats great…

        I really need to update the scream blog with more stuff… its been a while, and found many new ones haha

        • I wonder if you had photos of all the places your scream showed up put into a collage and sold it – would those “artists” be angry that you used “their image” without permission?

  6. Noam,
    I love the depth in you pieces. I esp. love your self-portraits. Silhouetto of a man is stunning!

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