Good day all. Every once in a great while, the New York Times puts together a story that warms your heart and almost makes up for the incredibly bad stories they usually put out…Almost. In this case the story is about a member of the Greatest Generation who was basically bootlegging DVD’s, ripping them, burning them to disk and sending them to the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. — One of the world’s most prolific bootleggers of Hollywood DVDs loves his morning farina. He has spent eight years churning out hundreds of thousands of copies of “The Hangover,” “Gran Torino” and other first-run movies from his small Long Island apartment to ship overseas.
Oh NO! It’s a pirate! Hollywood studios will demand his summery execution now!!
“Big Hy” — his handle among many loyal customers — would almost certainly be cast as Hollywood Enemy No. 1 but for a few details. He is actually Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old, 5-foot-5 World War II veteran trying to stay busy after the death of his wife. And he has sent every one of his copied DVDs, almost 4,000 boxes of them to date, free to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I don’t what branch of the service or where Mr. Strachman served, but he knows what it’s like for our troops, and in his own way he did what he could to relieve their stress and boredom.
“It’s not the right thing to do, but I did it,” Mr. Strachman said, acknowledging that his actions violated copyright law.
“If I were younger,” he added, “maybe I’d be spending time in the hoosegow.”
And I would say, Good luck finding a jury to convict “Big Hy.” Not only did he NOT personally profit from this, but he sank thousands of dollars into his endeavor to help our troops.
He has not kept an official count but estimates that he topped 80,000 discs a year during his heyday in 2007 and 2008, making his total more than 300,000 since he began in 2004. Postage of about $11 a box, and the blank discs themselves, would suggest a personal outlay of over $30,000.
Surly, our forces were horribly upset that someone was pirating movies and sending the DVD’s to them in the field. Umm, not so much.
Capt. Bryan Curran, who recently returned from Afghanistan, estimated that from 2008 to 2010, Mr. Strachman sent more than 2,000 DVDs to his outfits there.
“You’re shocked because your initial image is of some back-alley Eastern European bootlegger — not an old Jewish guy on Long Island,” Captain Curran said. “He would time them with the movie’s release — whenever a new movie was just in theaters, we knew Big Hy would be sending us some. I saw ‘The Transformers’ before it hit the States.”
Jenna Gordon, a specialist in the Army Reserve, said she had handed out even more of Mr. Strachman’s DVDs last year as a medic with the 883rd Medical Company east of Kandahar City, where soldiers would gather for movie nights around personal computers, with mortar blasting in the background. Some knew only that the discs came from some dude named Big Hy; others knew not even that.
“It was pretty big stuff — it’s reconnecting you to everything you miss,” she said. “We’d tell people to take a bunch and pass them on.”
Oh No! They were aiding and abetting! Anyone who watched one of these movies should be tossed into the stockade for life!! Why, think of the effect on the morale of the troops when they get a new movie that they can watch on a computer while cleaning their weapons. It must have utterly destroyed it!!
As for his brazen violation of domestic copyright laws, Mr. Strachman nodded guiltily but pointed to his walls, which are strewed with seven huge American flags, dozens of appreciative letters, and snapshots of soldiers holding up their beloved DVDs.
“Every time I got back an emotional e-mail or letter, I sent them another box,” he said, adding that he had never accepted any money for the movies or been told by any authorities to stop.
The movie industry must have known what Big Hy was doing and supported him. Otherwise they would have set loose the lawyers of war and destroyed him.
The movie studios are less enthusiastic. Although the most costly piracy now takes place online through file-sharing Web sites, the illegal duplication of copyright DVDs — usually by organized crime in Eastern Europe and China, not by retirees in their 90s in the American suburbs — still siphons billions of dollars out of the industry every year. And while Mr. Strachman’s movies were given to soldiers as a form of charity, studios do send military bases reel-to-reel films, which are much harder to copy, and projectors for the troops overseas.
And troops in the field, or in camps away from the main bases will have lots of opportunity to see these movies. I’m sure the military is really happy to set up a theater and have a few hundred soldiers in one place just asking for a mortar round or two to drop in for a visit.
Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, said he did not believe its member studios were aware of Mr. Strachman’s operation. His sole comment dripped with the difficulty of going after a 92-year-old widower supporting the troops.
“We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home,” Mr. Gantman said.
Oh that was a really heartfelt statement. What a putz.
The fun will stop soon, Mr. Strachman said. “I’m not sure who’s going to be left over there anymore,” he said, happier for the soldiers’ return than for his need to find another hobby.
And with that the duplicator beeped, spitting out seven more copies of “The Artist.”
Mr. Strachman scooped them out of their trays, put a rubber band around them and inserted the stack into a box, perhaps his very last.
I, for one, would like to thank Mr. Strachman’s efforts. In my opinion, he deserves an award for all the work he did. Hollywood? Considering that most of the movies they’ve made in the last few years have bombed big time, they can go pound sand. Can you imagine these losers trying to take Mr. Strachman to court? There isn’t a jury in the country that would convict him or find in favor of Hollywood. They would also royally piss off all the troops that received one of these disks and for a couple of hours, could forget where they were. I would also like to remind the MPAA that it isn’t considered a good idea to annoy people with automatic weapons and heavy artillery.
That is all
~The Angry Webmaster~