Stolen Photograph: A New Look at An Old Problem

This started making the rounds yesterday. The Stolen Scream: A Story About Noam Galai. I thought it important to post here. Wanted your thoughts to be a part of the conversation.

IMHO, this is:
Should we celebrate it or hate it? Lawsuits or a new suit of clothes that recognizes the times?
Two obvious sides with no obvious answer. And on and on… It’s our newest classic challenge as a rapidly evolving industry with the rapid deployment and sharing of information.

What say you?

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Josh Barnes says:

I routinely register my photos. If I had found one of my photos getting ripped off so widely, I would have no hesitation in taking money from the thieves who pirated it. I think the photographer was legally unsophisticated. Or a wimp. Or both.

This is scary stuff. It’s a good lesson as to why watermarking images online is important. I’ve never really been bothered by the political or artistic derivatives of my images, but selling products is a completely different story. I hate to give someone props for doing the right thing, but kudos to the editors at Nat Geo. I think it will be interesting to see how DRM develops in the photo world over the next feew years as situations like this continue to occur. I think the best thing for the time being is education for both up and coming photographers and consumers/web users (in a positive and constructive manner of course.)

Greg says:

Aren’t we going after the wrong people here. The horse has already bolted. Why cannot photo publishing websites like flickr stop people from copy other peoples works in the first place. In this day and age I fined it amazing that they have not or cannot install a program that stops downloading or coping of image that have stated copyright in the first place. Where do they stand on this matter? Don’t they have a moral obligation to protect and insure copyright law is upheld.

Realist says:

Bottom line, if you post your stuf online, its gone!! Watermark? CS5 = goodbye – content aware. If you want to sell it, then sell it. If you post it to Flicker, you just gave it up! He sould make his own t-shirts, stickers, cards… and reap the rewards of all the free press the theives have given him. At this point, its impossible to get the apple back from the those that have consumed it, so just use it to sell your own apples! Welcome to the new world.

Adam says:

Thanks for posting, I used this to start my class today in photography II at White River High School. They have an upcoming writing piece on copyright infringement in photography. My kids connected with it well, thanks again.

Clint Faile says:

WOW, If he were paid every time that was used he would be a wealthy man. This is terrible, but it was an awesome photo none the least.

this is crazy.
it’s frightening and very confusing. I can’t imagine what it would be like to see my likeness is so many places and contexts.

it’s going to take me a while to process this.

Michael Deme says:

Look, we’re a nonprofit bicycling magazine and we pay photographers. We may not pay what high-end commercial magazines do but we do pay. Photographers work long, hard hours often just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, and when they do and that image is used by others, they should be rewarded financially. Absolutely no other person or business entity should be able make money from the use of this image without remuneration and, if they have, he should find a lawyer who’d be willing to put in the time it will take to make things right … and make some money. It’s easy to blame “the internet” for this problem but it’s all about people – the people that create and the people that use the creation. There are weasels enough on both sides so I hope Noah stands up to this and doesn’t allow others to benefit financially from his work.

zed says:

Noam should collect all the copies of his image, make it into a book or exhibition … at least that’ll make him some money back … and then he should take new and more pics .. his name is certainly out there now … capitalize and build his photography on that … if that what he want’s. Otherwise it’s just a bit unfortunate for him .. I guess at least he’s got a National Geographic cover .-)

Brian George says:

Noam’s case somehow reminds me a lot of the famous image called Guerrillero Heroico of Che Guevara. The photographer Alberto Korda never received anything for this iconic image. By his own choice. He never asked for anything from anybody. He believed in the marxist ideology and therefore wanted the image to spread which could then help spread their political ideas.
He later sued an advertising company that tried to exploit the image commercially. Apparently things were settled out of court for 50.000 dollars. Which he then donated to a good cause in Cuba.
How is that for principles!

Thatcher says:


A lot of people are blaming the companies, but the CEO didn’t design the cover for their mag. The account didn’t design the companies flier. Another artist did. Even the lame, wanna be Banksy street “artist” shown can’t even be creative enough to come up with their own work. And I know advertising agencies are jumping on flickr to snag some free photos. In a time where the clients budget is getting slashed, so much so that istock is too expensive, they will go to flickr. I know. I’ve seen it done at an agency I used to work at. People think that if photos are on a massive photo sharing website that’s it’s public property, but if you keep your photos on your own site it’s more like it’s private property.

Don’t get me wrong though. I totally think it’s wrong. And Yahoo! (flickr) says they will back you up:

“If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, or that your intellectual property rights have been otherwise violated, please provide Yahoo!’s Agent for Notice with the following information (your “Notice”):”

fenix says:

Actually the CEO of a company can be found PERSONALLY liable for the actions of the company–see the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. It’s happened at Limewire and many other companies. This is one of the reasons CEO compensation is so through the roof. (not legal advice, look it up).

Aaron Wulf says:

I feel for the guy. His photos were clearly stolen with no attribution or compensation. He’s taken a pretty passive stance though. Sure, there’s no way to 100% protect your work. But he certainly can find someone who will fight to get him what he is entitled to.

MarkH says:

Copyright is intended to promote creativity. But it does exactly the opposite, as many responses in this post prove. The ONLY reason this image went on this journey, was because creative people chose to ignore the copyright. If it had been registered and litigated from the beginning, it would have been ignored. Also, many of the images shown in this video are adaptive and like it or not, are too far removed from the original to be classified as infringement. i.e. derivative works that fall under fair use.

I’m of the opinion that this guy was indeed slighted out of a few grand, particularly in terms of the published works, but even that would depend on the countries that used image and what their IP stances are with the US. The important thing many of you aren’t focusing on is how much MORE money he’s likely to earn as a result of people hearing about this story and discovering his work?

Chase says:

@ markh. you should watch the panel from today’s post at:

Stephen says:

This does not excuse the results but I wonder how many of the infringements were actually intentional. To spread like this, the image was being stolen from those that had already stolen it and if the original theft uploaded again to Flickr / etc with a different license, things get messy quickly. The video made it clear that the original creator was long lost.

bri says:

it seems a bit late now to try and make money off this image
but what he should do is use this image as promotional material himself.

obviously it has mass appeal.. he needs to take advantage of that and ride on the momentum

it sucks he didn’t get paid for it right from the beginning, but since he doesn’t seem to care that much
make the most of it I say.

Tim McGuire says:

Criminals will be criminals. Ignorant people will be ignorant. Opportunists will take advantage (which takes us back to the criminals). You can’t stop this.

This guy needs a couple good lawyers to go after those commercial enterprises who should know better than to violate this guy’s copyrights. I suppose it depends on the country the violations are being made in. I wouldn’t worry about the graffiti artists and such. It’s not worth the effort. He should definitely try and make some money from this image… if he wants to. You have to want to… and that takes effort.

Aleeya says:

If there are so many making money off of his image from products they made and he’s not going to go after them legally then why don’t he make his own products to sell with the same images? Make a public campaign to show that he is the true artist and owner of those photos. He already knows people are buying those images left and right. They all were wrong to use his image without permission but the publicity was free as well. He should take advantage of that. Use this as a way to market his other photos. Seriously, he has one widely recognized photo to put in his portfolio now.

Doug Betzold says:

Great post Chase. In the new age of digital media we have done little to protect or collect fees for the use of our work. Industry fragmentation has further contributed to the problem without a standard set of fees for small/normal usage or a unified agency to collect fees for use.

I have been wondering lately why we don’t have or own ASCAP for this very purpose and this video makes it even more evident that we need it now. In the past our industry sold tangible product to be used and them printed into another tangible product so payment had it own method of control within the system. Music had to deal with the intangible product from the start and came up with a great system that works. Now that our creations have become intangible in the new age of digital media we also need these controls so that we can live and produce.

Unfortunately the publishing world that we support has done little to help our cause unlike record companies have for their artists. They often times being the culprits in theft of an image for commercial use themselves.

Question, what if we had an ASCAP of our own (hello ASMP) that would bully these corporations and collect fees for the nominal usage that happens through the web?

The reason the image did so well was in part due to it’s disconnect from the main stream “buy & sell” world. If it was not stolen it would not have represented the cause it symbolized so well & in turn may not have gone literally everywhere. The most interesting part of the story, and what proves my point, is that Getty Images didn’t want the image & thought it was not marketable. Noam said that they were wrong but were they? They could not have collected money from graffiti artist or oposition groups but that is what gave it the street cred to be cool enough for all the other outlets the image enjoyed. The image got it’s real value from the way it was used & the reach it had. It became the common man’s scream. The current way we make money in the image business is changing. That is a fact. “May you live in interesting times.”

Ziv says:

Simple message.. R.A.N.
Register your images.
Act quickly when you discover infringement.
No whining.

fas says:

Awesome video, makes you go through multiple emotions at one time.

Michael Guminski says:

Absolute insanity, it’s still a bit of an abstract thought to me (being new to photography) that images can gain so much momentum on their own. I was watching The Grid with Scott Kelby and he had mentioned the whole “flickr is where you get your pictures stolen” aspect…make me wonder if he’s seen this.

LH says:

Someone I know had an image ripped off their flickr and put on a rape alarm in the UK

However… they were 17 when they took the photo. They tried to sue but were told that the image had undergone so much alteration they could not

Simply solution. Don’t put stuff you dont want nicked on flickr. Especially high res stuff.


OMG…..My music is on Chase Jarvis’s blog……!

Michal Fanta says:

Dude, nice way to make me speechless! :)

I have two opinions on this and it boils down to “Did they make money or not?”

If they (they being the people who have used this image without authorisation) did make money out of it then they need to pay him royalties appropriate to the usage and give him attribution where-ever possible

If they didn’t make money out of it (i.e. the freedom fighters etc) then they should give attribution where-ever possible (obviously they’re not going to go and grafiti a URL on a wall in a war zone just to give him attribution)

Clearly its more complicated than this and would need individual decsions made about certain cases but I feel its a rule that could be broadly applied

Matt says:

Thank you for posting this. I really feel for him. He must be both gutted that such worldwide recognition for an image he created is being taken by others, and also the violation he has experienced by the theft of his work.

I would have been fuming and very upset if this had happened to me. Yes, I would have liked to have been paid, but it would have been so much more painful having no recognition (other than friends and family) for my work. He had created this art, and others had ripped it of. He may have missed out on other opportunities, i.e. future commissions from the mags who published it etc.

This has really made me think about what I do about posting my images online in the future. But, it does lead me to ask myself the question why I am posting particular work online, (1) to be noticed for critique, enjoyment of others, putting art out into the world, (2) do I want to be paid for it, or ensure my name is linked to it for promotion.

With these 2 questions in my mind and this video, I will be considering my choices of what I put up, where, and how.

Cheers Chase, another great and informative blog post.


bimal nair says:

its a form of piracy. I can visualize what he feels and what revolves within his head in this regard and am feeling sorry for him. Almost everybody takes advantage of piracy one or the other way…..this video made me realize how the creator of the original feels when he sees the stolen stuff all around him…..unmonitored, unscreened……UNFAIR!

Cathy Benton says:

To sue someone for copyright infringement is very expensive to do. You pay until you collective been there.
This is wrong in so many ways but who’s going help this poor guy sue and collect? No one. He has only the satisfaction of knowing his idea was and is in Great demand.

Shane Parker says:

I wanted to punch a wall after watching this. Nobody can convince me that it’s “ok” for such mass theft, no matter how much “recognition” this kid gets. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Enio Tavares says:

IMHO there is no excuse for anyone to stole anything from anyone. There were some good causes/uses for the picture, but even though, the people should have asked for authorization before publishing it. What would be, at least, a matter of kindness and respect towards Noam. Not to mention the people and companies who made a profit from it without paying a single buck for the author.

Concerning Noam loss, he has legal ways to be rewarded for his good work.

This should be terrifying enough, but what really caught my attention is the general laziness and lack of creativity people are showing around the world. The photo is a good picture by itself, very graphic and strong. That said, I think the image is also easy to mimic and should, at the worst scenario, be used as inspiration.

No one who used it unauthorized seemed to bother even to think in creating something by themselves.

The poverty of ideas and the lack of earnest desire to produce some work of any kind is the greatest loss for everyone involved, IMHO.

Vicki M. says:

People should pay for the image. I simple way to prevent this is for photographers is to watermark their photos with a clear copyright mark.

Noam says:

For those of you who asked, I did pay and copyrighted the screaming photos few years ago.

And for those of you who wanted to see my other work you can go here and check it out: .

Thanks for all the comments! Glad you found my story interesting…

John says:

I was reading some responses by some above, and it would make logical sense to me to make a lawsuit against all of the companies and people he could find who use the image. If he hasn’t registered the copyright, then he still can collect its worth; however, he cannot collect for punitive damages. Also, he never signed a model release to all of the companies who have used his image, so there he can sue for punitive damages if he’s out to make money off the image. I’m sure there are other ways that lawyers could figure out to make money for him, but he’ll only find out by hiring a lawyer …

Jason Miller says:

This guy needs to send $45 and a disc of the originals into the US Copyright office and have his work legally copyrighted if he hasn’t done so already. Then immediately contact a lawyer and start trying to sue the crap out of everyone he can who has illegally used his image without his permission. I realize some out of US uses may be hard to resolve, if at all. But he can still go after the ones in country at least.

jonathan says:

It depends how you look at it. I believe its theft but what can you do? :/ surely using the image as graffiti, is someone being inspired and putting their own swing on it. (which is what most photographers do, using other peoples ideas in their work.) However using the image and putting someone elses name on is criminal….But i think he should be thankful for his fame and let bygones be bygones and make the most of it. doesn’t get opportunities like that.

W says:

I ran into two photographers exhibiting at a large fair recently. One photographer had signs all over his booth with a camera icon in red cross-hairs and “Do Not Photograph!”. I actually watched him chase after a woman who was attempting to capture one of his pictures with her cell phone. He can claim lost sales, but if she wasn’t going to buy anyway, what did he really lose? He lost any chance of additional exposure or word of mouth from her and others that witnessed his tirade.

The other photographer had a sign that said, “Yes, you can photograph my work.” I asked him why and he responded that the chances of someone stealing his images was less of a concern to him than someone sharing one of his images with others. Through that sharing attitude, he knew he would sell more images. He mentioned a client that had bought an expensive framed print from him. They had only seen his work because someone else had photographed it and showed it to them.

Which photographer is going to get more free exposure and be more successful? My bet is on the latter. As a photographer, remember, “You don’t take a photograph, you ask quietly to borrow it.”

It’s humbling how Noam acknowledges at around the 8-minute mark that he owes his fame to that one stolen image. Had it not been so widely used, it would likely only exist on his computer or printed on his wall at home. What he gains in free publicity and exposure from that one image will likely more than make up for any potential loss in the long run. I wish him the best of luck. He has the attitude we should all aspire to.

Francis says:

Both Photographers are correct!

Each one of them owns the rights and choose to do what they wish.

I applaud them both!

W says:

First, I agree that everyone has the right to do what they wish. The question wasn’t which photographer was correct, it was which one will be more successful long term. Unfortunately, Noam didn’t get to make that choice, thieves made the choice for him. Instead of being a jerk about the issue, Noam’s positive attitude and humble reaction is taking him a lot farther in life.

Lee Morris says:

Thanks so much for posting our video Chase.

I find it humorous when people say he was robbed of millions of dollars. Of course I can’t say for sure but I believe that if he was paid by the companies that stole his image, he would have made a few grand, not a few million. I know what he was paid for the magazine cover and it wasn’t much.

Of course what happened isn’t right but don’t we all steal stuff all the time? Every idea for a photograph we have has been inspired by another in some way and the line between inspiration and theft is a thin one. I’m the first to admit that I’ve watched unreleased TV shows online on Megavideo and I was the king of Napster back in the day. How many of you can say your computers are clean or copied software, your car is clean of burned CDs and your iPods are full of only music you have purchased. Haven’t we all made “mix tapes” for our friends? I’m not proud about any of it but I’m not going to act like the people in the video are any different than me.

Noam may have missed out on a few thousand dollars but his face is now a small part of history. I’ll take that over the cash any day. But hey, that is just my opinion.

Francis says:

Millons of dollars or thousands of dollars. You absolutlety can’t say for sure and neither can I. But my best guess it is a whole lot more than what you’re talking about. Today content is displayed at an expotential rate more than ever before. Had his rights been honnored. I think he would have been a rich man. However the sad part of this is that we will now never know. I think he should go after everyone he can catch and nail em. Let this be the example of what our new world needs to learn. Not by any means an easy task and nearly impossible. But so important just the same. As the record indusrty zeroed in on a few unsuspecting citizens for stealing all of that music. Shocking as it was, it brought to light an awareness to the average person who has no concept of infringement. It’s not persuction! It’s protection.
I applaud you for cleaning house. I have done the same as well. Everyone should!

PG says:

So many issues to discuss, so little time. In order of egregiousness:

1) the “artists” who claim the image as their own. Truly horrible, unethical, and possibly even unforgivable;
2) the person, persons, and commercial entities making money off the image without compensation. No defense for that – it’s just plain wrong;
3) everything else I don’t have time to discuss.

If he had an agent, would his image have gotten this much exposure? Probably not; not in this day and age anyway.

Certainly no obvious solution, as previously stated, and maybe no other type of solution either. I hate to think that. Maybe the best solution is to make lemonade.

Alistair says:

The fact he hasnt sent out bills to those that are making money of his image is a joke. That reflects badly on him in my opinion.

Tom says:

Interesting topic. We probably would never of heard of Noam Galai if it wasn’t for his photo being stolen. So he is already benefiting from the theft. If he is a really good photographer this could launch his career. Then again maybe its just a hobby and he isn’t that good (I’m not saying that, as I don’t know) and this was his only image that will be of any significants. In which case he benefits the least.

Finding out that someone stole and profited from your work sucks. But, finding out your image is iconic as a result must take the sting out of it. And, there is value in that.

This could be a case of an image going viral. Hundreds if not thousands of people downloading and using this image. In which case hiring lawyers wouldn’t do much good. Its assumed that big money was made off this photo. Could be hundreds of very small profits made or not made.

Setting the record straight as to who the image really belongs to was a good first step. Now he needs to show the world what he is made of and he can capitalize on this fortunate misfortune.

David Sanger says:

I think he is already well established

Chris Hughes says:

I still get the biggest rush when someone like my work and wants either it or to use it. If people want to pay for my art it’s a bonus. If I make art for myself without the notion of money it’s different to using my art to make money. The crime is not so much in my opinion using the art it’s the not crediting the maker. The great thing about the film you shared shows the artist regaining some of his power over the image by telling people “i made this”. I wonder how many more people will be interested to see what other work he has made. And at the end of the day it’s a great image.

Brian George says:

Telling people ‘I made this’ although noble, is not going to pay for his rent.

Jeff says:

If you combine all data from the beginning of written history, it would fall short to the amount we currently generate annually. Think about that for a second, and just the sheer volume it includes. Every book, cave drawing, audio recoding, photo, carving, painting, stamp on a product, etc… combined from the dawn of man is equal to the amount we currently create in less than a year.

There comes a point where you will simply reach saturation. What happens if someone develops a piece of software that produces every possible word combination (easily done with current tech), every possible sound ( plausible in a few short years at the rate of data storage), every possible visual ( hard to imagine being possible, but what if an image is ‘close enough?’), what then does copyright matter?

The photo in the video is clearly being used without the rights holder’s permission, with some possible exemptions for creative adaptations., but did he have it uploaded as a creative commons license on Flickr, and if so which type (with the exception of the published materials, most everything else could be considered legit)? Were the T-shirts and promotional materials being used for a non-profit? Were his images being used in countries that do not have a system of intellectual property, or more to the point, do not have a treaty/agreement with the US saying that we will honor their IP and vice versa? History and legal precedents even in our own country show that if a law is unenforceable, it is moot. The FBI has an entire wing dedicated to nothing but infringement, ICE, DoJ, etc…all have ramped up their staffing to combat movie/song piracy and they have yet to make a dent domestically let alone internationally. Their efforts have done little except help insure our national budget is steeped in the wrong direction. Those of you having the atypical ‘He needs to sue everyone!!!’ reaction are only further entrenching yourselves in the past. He should capitalize on his images fame, and not its abuse. He could write a book about the journey his photo went on and how it became a symbol far beyond anything he imagined. He could release his own line of t-shirts, buttons, etc…from all of the images he already ‘owns’. Start a blog (with adspace of course) for ‘stolen images’, tracking all of the additional places his photos appear (and maybe other’s images that develop similarly i.e. the Obama poster).

The recording industry is struggling with these sorts of problems because they refuse to adapt their business model to keep pace with the sprint of the world. Music is no longer about a product, i.e. a physical album. It’s about an experience. Photography is headed down the same path and Ockham’s razor has never had a sharper example.

Francis says:


You can’t whitewash this CRIME and concede it’s now the world we now live in. And what you said about the state of the Music Industry today. And I quote you “Music is no longer about a product, i.e. a physical album. It’s about an experience.” Well how do you pay you’re rent from just an experience? Have you ever had anything stolen from you? Physical or Intellectual? You’re insulting every creative person out there. Are you going to shell out of your pocket to keep these artist going? Well I will! It’s called a free market. But guess what? It’s not free! A musician creates a song. I like it, well then I buy it! Plain and simple.

This Photographer created his image. If he intended this to be up for grabs. I don’t think he would have posted it. Noam Galai was ripped of plain and simple. I think you might agree with this. But what you don’t see from your comments is that this is wrong! Your attitude is worse than the actual crime. Because you allow it to happen. You equate this (and I will quote you again) “to keep pace with the sprint of the world.” Well then should everything be free? Photography, Music, Computers, Food, Clothing, Cars and our Homes. Is it a world where we will freely give away everything to anybody & everybody? Are you talking about Socialism or Communism? (disclosure: I’m an Independent that voted Obama)

Should Bill Gates have given away his first OS code to the world at its inception? If so what do you think would have happened? Could his creation have grown into what it is today? How? Without funding or any kind of R&D? I think not. Should the union workers in Wisconsin give up their rights now that they have been promised because a few bullies are claiming they made us broke? Indecently the Professional Photography business never had any kind of union. So there was never really any one effective organization that fought collectively for the rights of Photographers and other support positions. Bill gates created Windows. You want to use it? Pay for it! Noam Galai created this scream photo. You want to use it? Pay for it!

If I create something like a photo or music. Then I own the rights to it. Any one infringes upon that. Then I will seek legal action against them. And it has happened to me twice. The irony is that I would have allowed them to use it for a fraction of what I won in litigation. They were wrong I was right. But more importunately I was protected. Not only by law but by ethics and moral standards in our society. Noam stated in the video that he would have openly shared his work for an art project but not given away for commercial use. And that is a beautiful action on his part. Because he made the art he and only he should have the right to sell it or share it with whom they choose. No one else can make that decision.

And I have learned to be very careful what photos or videos I post on Social Networks. Read the fine print. (I see that you have on Flickr.) And what these outlets do not do is to help protect it’s participants. All these Social sharing sites should have a banner going across the screen to indicate the rights of the individuals posted artwork. The principle behind Social Networking is to SHARE, NOT STEAL. Warnings won’t stop theft. I am aware of that. But what it will do is declare rights of the individual who posts their property. Something you assume does not exist at all.

Brent H says:

From the commercial side; cannibalistic, vultures does come to mind (hope they choke on the bones one day). From the artistic side; how cool is that to be have created an image used to express oppression, frustration and revolution that gets painted on walls all over the world? There is a bit or irony tho… anyone recall the images, one in particular, used for Pink Floyd’s The Wall? (check amazon out for a reminder).

Vigilance, awareness, and education are the only things that will combat this; protect what is yours and respect what belongs to others. Idealistic, I know, but good rules to live by.

jetgreen1 says:

Quick…Someone dig Hopper up and get his read!

Brian Laurent says:

So, somebody can own the “Happy Birthday” song. Shouldn’t a photographer own the rights to their images?

It seems to me that “plagarized art” is an oxymoron and that profiting from someone else’s art, without their compensation and/or consent is clearly theft. I agree with folks that said he should issue a Cease & Desist at least to those for-profit ventures using his image, but I’m curious how difficult or expensive it would be for him to file suit, particularly across international borders. I’m thinking specifically about the graphic designer selling images online. Isn’t this something an IP attorney would take with the fee based on damages recovered and little or no up-front costs? (I’m forgetting the legal term for working on ‘spec’)

How different must an image be from the original, that it becomes some kind of derivative not subject to the copyright of the original piece? I’m also curious how the readers here (and legal precedent in the USA) view this issue of derivative works. I’m reminded of the Obama “Hope” image.

Dave says:

Get a good IP Lawyer buddy.. The payday you’ll get from it will set you up for life.

Brian George says:

Actually I was thinking the same. If he sues all the companies he could be set for life. Even though it would be a hassle and a lot of sleepless nights..

Tom Kavanagh says:

These companies should definitely have to pay and they should be taking action against so-called photographers who misrepresent their ownership of an image.

I think the street art aspect however makes things a little muddy though. I don’t think you can stop (or should stop) someone from creating art, free for public consumption, inspired by another image. But what happens when a photographer takes a picture of the street art. How are they to know it’s a copyrighted image?

I wish we could give our art away but someone’s got to pay the bills sadly.

Henry Lingat says:

I saw this yesterday, and ironically saw the scream image in a promo piece from the UK shortly afterwards. It left me feeling angry for the guy that his image was used AND was stolen by another creative. It also left me angry at him for being passive and not fighting for what is rightfully his. I don’t know if the editing made him appear that way or not.

This is another wake up call to be vigilant and fight for what is right.

Wallerus says:

Give credit where it’s due. The guy does have a good attitude about it, but it’s outrageous how people these days claim art to be their own. Sure Artists love for their work to be shared, but they should also be compensated if it’s going to sell.

Thankfully National Geographic got it right. Great shots btw.Though it’s not film, it’s still piracy.

David says:

No one group of people is more often abused and taken advantage of than creatives & photographers. If you were selling a hot dog at a hot dog stand, would you feel guilty about charging a fair price for that hot dog? Of course not. So why be pressured by anyone to demote your work to anything less than a living wage? Our work is meaningless and worthless until WE decide to step up and put a value on it.

This last year alone i’ve done $13,000 worth of work that i will not end up being paid for, despite contracts, paper trail, invoices etc. If i stole a car off a car lot, i’d go to jail. However, today’s corporations can easily get away with outright theft without any recourse from us. Why? Because it’s difficult to get caught driving a website or a photograph down the street like you would a stolen car.

Until this changes, people and companies are still going to treat the majority of photographers, creatives, designers, and coders like trash, because they don’t see the tangible value we represent. People don’t really have a problem copying music, so why should we have a problem with copying photos and other creative ip? Right?

People make a living in photography. The more people question whether photography by default should be in some sort of ‘open source’ bubble the more this fact gets taken for granted.

Brian George says:

Very well said David, I couldn’t agree more.

tom says:

I guess he could sue the shit out of every single company that is making money from it.

Then again he could try and use the publicity engine to get himself exposure from that… and maybe get is works sold that way.

Ted McAusher says:

Stolen, no question. I like Gareth’s take on it. What’s done has been done, lawsuit or not, perhaps Noam should use the publicity (negative as it is) to capitalize if possible.

Jake~ says:

It is so very sad, that we – as a society, have just accepted things such as this as “normal” activity. People, this is theft – like it or not, copy-written or not – these are his photos….stolen. I think one of the main issues at hand is the fact that we have a lack of an enforcement authority here. At least, they make it rather difficult to pursue enforcement anyhow.

He deserves way better than this. Major props for keeping your head-up…a bit ironic that “they” said the images would never sell – Ha! Maybe they don’t know everything!

He Should hire like 20 lawyers right? Wouldn`t he win every single case?

puckles says:

he has the right attitude – when it’s art it’s one thing, but when it’s something people are making money with it’s theft, and when someone co-opts it and sells it as their own work… it’s APPAULING.

He has a very good attitude about the whole thing, but he deserves a lot of money from the people who stole it or used it illegally.

Shabazz says:

Not only should the companies pay him but anyone who has benefited from his work!

Barry says:

I think he should post the names of all the site, agencies, organizations etc that have used his photo without proper permission and let the Twitterverse take care of this.

David Sanger says:

He has – at

Rather than pursue all the infringers (especially lowball ones) he is capitalizing on it with an online store

which all in all is a fairly smart move.

This is outright blatant theft. But given the scale of it, there’s nothing that Noam can do, except embrace what has happened. It’s frustrating that big companies exploited this, and others have benefitted, but Noam has what they don’t, the truth, and the rights to that image. This image should become his trademark for his business, he would have worldwide recognition, and no one will be able to oppose him since he’s the copyright owner.

I think about some theft as just advertising, albeit indirect advertising. If you take a boring picture that’s the same as everyone elses boring picture, then theft shouldnt be a concern. But if you do something exceptional, and it’s taken, shared, or sold, you are changing the mindset of everyone that sees it. If it becomes recognisable, and is like your otherwork, people will be more inclined to like your new work because they’re already programmed that way from seeing the stolen stuff elsewhere.. Not sure if I said that right.

Viral videos work on theft. Someone creates something, but each person has such a small circle of influence that the work needs to be shared freely without barriers. It’s like the movie industry, people will always rip and burn movies. Instead of constantly trying to protect every revenue stream, embrace the way people consume and leverage that.

And if people are really worried about theft, don’t put anything online, dont share anything, dont show anything. Then see how far that gets them.

Learn to roll with the way the world works, and don’t be a barrier to change.

Nicko says:

As a amateur/enthusiast/hobby photographer, every picture i sell is important to me and i wouldn’t really mind the graffiti artists use it but when people and company starts earning money with my picture it’s a different story. I would try to contact the person or company that did it and say either you stop selling the thing, whatever it is, or they pay me per thing sold or a bigger amount and they can use it as they want. I’m very carefull to where i post my pictures, for example, none of my pictures have been uploaded to facebook and to flickr i only sumbit low quality, low resolution images.

Jason Anderson says:

Chase, I have to say, you bring some awesome stuff to the forefront of discussion. This is a conundrum for everyone. Like Noam said, he likes the statements that have made with his picture, just not the uncompensated commercial aspect of it. His voice is spreading farther than it ever would have, if he were doing this on his own. At the same time, he, and other artists around the world need to represent and defend their work with any means necessary in order to protect their vision. I don’t think there is anything wrong with him saying, “you used my photo for a profit, now pay up.” Chances are, most people would realize what happened and do the right thing. It won’t be an easy road, but I see it as an unfortunately necessary one. This is probably a short sided view, and I look forward to the other comments that will be generated by this post.

Jonathan says:

very interesting video. I have to really think it over. However, I know it made me feel wrong.

Most upsetting that entire organisations, writers & who all are making money out of his picture and getting away with it. It is simply not done. Photography as a profession is redundant if everything is just for that warm fuzzy feeling.

He’s happy that the picture is out & is liked by so many, bt do those so many even know about his existence? for them it’s just some graphic off the net.

I want this to stop. I feel like the dutch boy with his finger in the hole in the Levee. I want a copyright lawyer to take this on and sue every commercial use that an American court can reach out to. I want American big media to cover this and make the public aware that the work of others is not a profitable free for all. Could backfire.

Trudy says:

Most of the theft I experience falls into 2 categories: 1)from large companies making huge profits while I have bills to pay 2) not copyright infringement but highly specific plagiarism from other photographers in social media, so much so that one even asked for some coding help, then took that help to blatantly copy a whole page on from one of my sites. Also written content copyright infringement is common in photography but not noticed since our work is primarily images. For example, I’ve watched a particular blogger take 3 of my photography blog posts and slightly change the wording. Naturally, he gets 10x the RTs, of course.

The new wave of things seem to be against artists and basically a “get over it” mood pushed towards us. I’m trying to figure out how having what you love taken, profited off of or exploited is supposed to feel good? I guess only to those with severe low self-esteem that process any attention as “positive” and any insult as “flattery.”

I agree with Seth Godin’s view on giving gifts and sharing work, but notice both of these things involve my choice. The sitaution I describe above did not offer me any choice on the matter. Artists are supposed to be what, creativity machines churning out products without any choices or opinions on the matter? This seems to be the general view of many people, from the average person on the web to scholars. Sigh. Whatever…

Trudy says:

This case is especially wild because this his actual face….wow. But in the end it’s up to the artist. If some artists let its slide then it is their choice and if some enforce copyright, it is their choice too. But both sets of choices will set the tone for the overall issue.

(the actual photograph is very awesome…)

Frederik Overgaard says:

Just saw it on fstoppers – pretty wild..!

Alison White says:

I think it’s great that he has got exposure from his image and not unexpected that a photograph you place on the internet will most likely become present on other sites without the original owner knowing about it and likely be used in presentations or moodboard if a google search will pull it up.
However it’s completely wrong that companies are making money out of this. If your going to use a photograph, drawing or whatever in a design with the aim to make money from it then it should be your own work or work you have permission to use. The fact that some people are even selling this photo on as their own is the worst out of this as they’ll be companies thinking that they are legally using the image when in fact it’s nothing short of theft.

The internet is the Wild West…really anything goes.
If you don’t want to be exploited there’s very little you can do to arm yourself against it.

The only chance of winning is to be a more successful artist than the rip-off artist.


G says:

This affects the music industry in much the same way. Good luck being an up and coming musician who wants to eat and live under a roof.

Luka says:

Well, definitely an awful practice and I am sure many lawyers would willingly take such a case to return the money to its owner. I think it’s worth considering. It’s not a shame to ask for your rightful remuneration. Regards!

Matt says:

First off, let me say that what happened to him is wrong. Crazy and exciting but never-the-less wrong. Next, I guess i’m trying to see where the line is with art. Do artists always have to be paid? I can see why some would, but occasionally you have that one who comes along and makes a name for themselves without receiving anything in return. This piece should be a great motivator to him to continue to create art that touches individuals. And maybe next time he will make some cash off it!

Albert says:

“Do artists always have to be paid?”

Just as much as accountants have to be paid, engineers have to be paid, doctors, you get the point. Being an artist is not equal to being a volunteer, unless specifically stated by the artist, through a Creative Commons license for example. It is a full time job after all.

“Making a name for yourself” means nothing if people can’t value you to the point of being able to present a fair proposal on the table, a pragmatic proposal that falls outside of romanticism (eg “exposure” or “free beer”).
It’s one thing to see all these people freely using his piece for their own purposes (commercial or personal), it’s another having those very same people (especially corporations and small businesses) open their wallet and actually showing formal respect and pay their dues to the guy, as they do with anything else they consume and sell.

Albert says:

PS: It’s also impossible for you to make a name for yourself when the picture is shared around with no proper identification attached to it, or worse, when others pass it off as their own.

What I see here is some sort of unintentional symbiosis: he never affixed any copyright notice or watermark on the image itself, and never really took notice (he mentions going back after 6 months to check on his page) until it was too late. Would any of this have happened had he been a bit more careful? Who knows really.

jim says:

I don’t understand… why not file a lawsuit? Sure most of these there is nothing you can do, but book covers? Magazine covers? playing cards?

Albert says:

A lawsuit against “who” (or rather, how many) and with what money?

Bruce says:

I’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.

Beth says:

Has he hired a lawyer to go after those publishers, clothing manufacturers and other money-making ventures that are getting paid from the proceeds of a stolen image? I’m sorry, but if he doesn’t, he’s contributing to the problem. As a photographer, this is exactly why I post a copyright tag on all of my images that are published on the web and don’t publish a lot of them for general consumption.

Mike Wilson says:

FYI… putting a Copyright symbol on your stuff does not copyright the work. You own copyright whether you put anything on it or nothing. You can’t collect DAMAGES unless you register your copyright, so pretty much all he can do is put out a Cease & Desist letter, but he can’t actually collect money unless he registered it. That’s my understanding of the way copyright law works, though I’m not a lawyer.

Beth says:

I do copyright my photos. All of them. I would suggest to every photographer that they do the same.

I used to work at a large stock agency and have some experience with this, so you’re not entirely correct in saying that a photo isn’t copyrighted until you file. As the artist, you automatically own the legal rights to your own work. So even if it hasn’t been formalized yet, an artist does have some recourse in the event of theft.

If you can prove ownership of the image, you can still file a suit for unlawful usage regardless of whether the formal copyright is in place at the time of usage.

jonathan says:

what if the person using the photo edits the image. do you still own the rights on the image.

Jenika says:

In my understanding, yes you still own the rights because what they created is a derivative work of your image. There are rules about those things. They might be able to get away with it if they did something that was considered a parody.

Mike Wilson says:

I mentioned in my post that you DO indeed own Copyright and you do have the right to control how your image is used. But my understanding (admittedly very much as a layman) is that if you haven’t REGISTERED your copyright then you can’t collect monetary DAMAGES from illegal use of your images. So the recourse in question is more or less a cease and desist.

Is your understanding different on that?

Josh R. says:

First of all you don’t automatically own the copyright in all countries so be careful about throwing that around. You do in the US though.

In order to sue you will need to register your copyright but if the suit involves an unregistered copyright, at the time of the infringement, then you are limited to actual damages. If the copyright has been registered then you are eligible for statutory damages and lawyers fees in addition to actual damages.

Jason Miller says:

Yes, but I think he can still register them with the copyright office and pursue litigation. I watched a video on one Scott Kelby’s websites (Photoshop User TV, I believe) and they spent like 2 shows talking about this type of stuff with an actual copyright lawyer

Jenika says:

I see what you’re saying, but really – if you or I were in his situation, would we have the financial resources to sue potentially hundreds of people in dozens of countries in dozens of legal systems? I’m gonna guess “no.” You can go broke trying to do that. It’s not as easy as it might sound. I cut him slack.

Jeremy says:

I hope he got a team of lawyers and nabbed as many of the thieves as possible and got his money’s worth.

Chet says:

Theft, plain and simple. You can’t pay bills with photo credits and tear sheets.

Angelo says:

I agree… no obvious answer. But I think it does speak to the notion that art/photography has become severely devalued since the advent of the internet. People love and use the image – as long as they don’t have to pay for it.

gabe s says:

Its awesome for the political stuff, but when other artists and photographers claim it as theirs, that just upsets me.

Justin says:

I think I’d be equally annoyed by the political stuff, especially if it was for a cause with which I didn’t agree.

Ahmad says:

4:33 is not arabic text. It was persian, I guess somewhere in Tehran !!!

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