92-year-old WW2 vet pirates thousands of movies for troops

Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old World War II veteran from Long Island, might be one of the most prolific individual movie pirates alive: he's copied more than an estimated 300,000 bootleg DVDs over the course of eight years. And he's mailed every single one of those discs, at his own expense, to U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, reports The New York Times.

He's known as "Big Hy" by the beneficiaries who are aware of him - some aren't even aware of him at all. However, they are all appreciative of his efforts, which involved up to 60 hours a week of dedicated disc copying at its peak. Strachman sends the troops first-run movies, including titles like "Transformers," "The Hangover," "Gran Torino," "The Artist," "The King's Speech" and more. Grateful soldiers have mailed Big Hy several binders worth of letters and pictures in appreciation.

He does not rip copies from store-bought discs, or download the movies from a source like BitTorrent. Strachman actually buys bootlegged discs from a local dealer near his home, then makes copies of them to blank discs. The movies he buys are usually either illegal recordings made in theaters ("cams"), or studio releases that are leaked in advance.

Strachman originally started out copying one movie at a time with his desktop computer, before obtaining a $400 professional duplicator that can make seven copies at a time. He stuffs 84 discs (seven copies of 12 movies) into a U.S. Postal Service fixed-rate box and mails them to Army chaplains, who Strachman says do not sell the discs and are effective distributors.

A spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America responded to The New York Times' request for a comment with a tempered statement. "We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home," the spokesman said.

Strachman does not keep any of the copied movies for himself, and destroys the master copies when he's done with them. His operation is also winding down as more troops return from combat missions.

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A spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America responded to The New York Times' request for a comment with a tempered statement. "We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home," the spokesman said.

Amazing....and they dont go after this guy.

sava - he didn't get away with anything yet. Can't jump to conclusions. As far a public opinion they are not saying what he did was right they are just saying they can understand his motive. Public opinion is not always the right opinion but it is a strong voice when it comes to putting pressure on organizations like the MPAA. It will be very hard for them to leave it alone as they have pushed their agenda for a long time now and to let this go would wipe away their years of courtroom arguements.

Ok wait.. so he can get away with this even for this reason yet everyday people can't even make their own copy of a movie they purchase legally? wow.

Interesting that "Big Hy" only bought bootleg copies -- right there he avoided some of the stuff he could have potentially been charged with... maybe possession of stolen property, assuming they could prove to a jury he knew it was stolen? And that's *if* they could find a jury that would think of convicting the old guy. Then there's the matter of evidence -- who's going to testify that he in fact did send those discs & didn't make the whole story up? I'm not doubting that he did send the discs myself, but that's just my personal opinion -- it's not like an undercover cop bought anything from him, or they documented an available download. All in all I think the case is odd enough that Hollywood will likely leave it alone, & may in fact feel that the dangerous course would be to bring legal action -- there'd be loads of attorneys willing to take his case for free [think of the publicity], & a loss in the courts could set legally binding precedent... if someone argues in another case that they didn't go after Big Hy, all the MPAA etc. has to say is they've not got around to it yet.

As some people have stated the MPAA would have to go after him or they face having to drop their other cases which are much less "damaging" than this if proven to be true. Right now it's just speculation on how much he distributed but I am sure he did his fair share of copying it and distrbuting it.

I am sure if this becomes a media frenzy a legal team will swoop in and offer their services pro-bono for the exposure.

The MPAA face a public blacklash(as if they haven't already) if they proceed in prosecution or a major setback in their cases if they don't pursue it. We are not talking about an old man who just sent movies to some shop in Russia. We are talking about a patriot who sent it to other patriots to help them escape for a moment their life and death struggles in the Middle East.

MPAA can't win this one. If they don't sue, it's going to have an effect on their other lawsuits. If they do, they'll get blasted for suing an old war veteran.

Shikaka said,
He's to old to be arrested anyway now, it would be a pointless waste of time.

He's probably only got a few years left of his life anyways. I see the don't see the point either.

Guinness world records. Oldest man sent to jail...

I read the article in The (British) Times today - quite interesting.

One question though to those who know much more than me about this subject:
By not opening up proceedings against him are the MPAA setting up a precedent concerning people who serve their country and pirated goods?

So MPAA turn a blind eye to this but everyone else is a criminal. Not that I think they should prosecute him, I'm just saying that they're hypocrites.

Simon- said,
So MPAA turn a blind eye to this but everyone else is a criminal. Not that I think they should prosecute him, I'm just saying that they're hypocrites.

In this situation they are screwed no matter what they do.

Simon- said,
So MPAA turn a blind eye to this but everyone else is a criminal. Not that I think they should prosecute him, I'm just saying that they're hypocrites.

Respectfully, I think the term Bounty Hunters would be more appropriate. Myself, I don't think they necessarily *feel* anything, one way or another -- rather than being hypocritical, they just go after the lowest hanging fruit, the easiest cases where they're more likely to make the most profit.

Whilst I can't possibly call what he's morally wrong, he is still breaking the law. If he isn't prosecuted this could open up a whole can of worms where people who have been prosecuted are outraged.

People who share on torrents etc don't financially benefit either, but they're still prosecuted.

The law is the law.

Hardcore Til I Die said,
Whilst I can't possibly call what he's morally wrong, he is still breaking the law. If he isn't prosecuted this could open up a whole can of worms where people who have been prosecuted are outraged.

People who share on torrents etc don't financially benefit either, but they're still prosecuted.

The law is the law.

And that my friend, is called argument through authority.

When I was in Iraq, I never got any bootleg DVDs in the mail. They were, however, sold on post at the "Bazaar", which was a set-up they had where they would allow certain Iraqi civilians on post in order to sell goods such as paintings, rugs, memorabilia, and, amongst other items of questionable origin, bootleg DVDs.

I don't doubt that they're just itching to sue the fellow.

I'd like to see what happens when they manage to get on the wrong side of the Department of Defense though.

Good on him, one hell of a guy if you ask me! If the heartless ******* sue him it really shows what kind of person they are!

The MPAA has no problem suing 90 year old grandmas who don't even have an internet connection. I think everyone already knows what kindoff people they are

NoLiMiT06 said,
Good on him, one hell of a guy if you ask me! If the heartless ******* sue him it really shows what kind of person they are!

Well they've already sued dead folk (or rather tried) so I wouldn't put it past them to sue this guy.

the way i see it... those troops are entitled to entertainment when your risking your life over there and being away from your family for a long time to.

ThaCrip said,
the way i see it... those troops are entitled to entertainment when your risking your life over there and being away from your family for a long time to.

Yeah, I'm not really someone who condones piracy or entitlement, but c'mon. These guys are risking their lives so the people making the movies don't have to - would it really hurt anyone to give them a freebie once in a while?

THolman said,

Yeah, I'm not really someone who condones piracy or entitlement, but c'mon. These guys are risking their lives so the people making the movies don't have to - would it really hurt anyone to give them a freebie once in a while?


so is firemen

ozgeek said,
MPAA, you would dare sue a war veteran?
You know they're going to sue him. Come on, war vet doing something nice for our boys away from home? They aren't going to let that get in the way. They see a person responsible for 300k illegal copies of DVD's costing them at least $6M in lost DVD sales (at $20/copy) in legit sales - never-mind the penalties and civil penalties that could be brought. Yep, this poor guy is screwed and the MPAA are the just the type to do it.

ozgeek said,
MPAA, you would dare sue a war veteran?

I would be watchful once he gets sued. I will plant some corn soon so by the time I would be ready with all my popcorn for the entertainment that follows.

ozgeek said,
MPAA, you would dare sue a war veteran?

And have him show up to court in uniform with all his medals? Epic. Talk about a media circus. Go for it MPAA.

When I was a freelance tech, I had a gig in an old folk's home. This old man had a top of the line 17" HP laptop fully loaded (and loaded with so many viruses and worthless apps). He was the movie & music pimp of the home. The only music or movies in that place were ones he made and sold to various people.
He was sleezy as they get.

TEX4S said,
When I was a freelance tech, I had a gig in an old folk's home. This old man had a top of the line 17" HP laptop fully loaded (and loaded with so many viruses and worthless apps). He was the movie & music pimp of the home. The only music or movies in that place were ones he made and sold to various people.
He was sleezy as they get.

Now thats a pirate.

This WW2 Vet... not a pirate.

He did not profit one bit from this operation.


Wish people would understand the difference between sharing and pirating.

ShareShiz said,

Now thats a pirate.

This WW2 Vet... not a pirate.
He did not profit one bit from this operation.
Wish people would understand the difference between sharing and pirating.

You are the one who needs to learn a bit Im afraid. Profit is not the defining factor for piracy... its theft. Getting 300,000 bootlegged movies and passing them around is indeed theft. Semantics really, letting 1 person make a copy - maybe thats sharing - sending them to thousands of troops - that is not sharing, thats distribution.
Not saying I wouldnt do it myself if in his shoes, but you need to know the difference

TEX4S said,

You are the one who needs to learn a bit Im afraid. Profit is not the defining factor for piracy... its theft. Getting 300,000 bootlegged movies and passing them around is indeed theft. Semantics really, letting 1 person make a copy - maybe thats sharing - sending them to thousands of troops - that is not sharing, thats distribution.
Not saying I wouldnt do it myself if in his shoes, but you need to know the difference

It might not be his to share, but it still seems like sharing to me. And if you define it as theft what is it that he has stolen?

TEX4S said,
... He was the movie & music pimp of the home. The only music or movies in that place were ones he made and sold to various people.
He was sleezy as they get.

I have no idea personally whether he was a sleaze or not, but it's quite possible the only way he could afford a laptop, blank discs, on-line connection etc. was by charging folks for whatever. His having a "top of the line 17" HP laptop fully loaded" might seem to imply he was in it for profit of some sort, but if it was loaded with malware that itself would imply he was a bit less knowledgeable about such things, & just maybe he has that particular laptop because he was an easy mark for some salesperson.

TEX4S said,
Profit is not the defining factor for piracy... its theft. Getting 300,000 bootlegged movies and passing them around is indeed theft. Semantics really, letting 1 person make a copy - maybe thats sharing - sending them to thousands of troops - that is not sharing, thats distribution...

RE: semantics, I'm not so sure "Piracy" even applies to copying content illegally -- like Wikipedia I stick to the traditional definition, i.e. piracy on the seas, figuring the only reason an org like the MPAA uses it is to prejudice judges/juries.

That said, if you bought 300,000 fake Rolex watches & handed them out as gifts, would you be guilty of theft? Depending on how the jury saw it you might be guilty of (c) infringement, or not... you aren't the one who copied the design. In Hyman's case he copied a fake or illegal copy -- did he potentially cut into the profits of the bootleggers or Hollywood? My guess is the bootleggers have the stronger claim, since the discs Hyman mailed off more likely wound up in a floating library of sorts, & just like seeing a movie in a theater, the troops would have every incentive to buy the movies they liked once they got back state-side. But since the bootleggers didn't own the rights to begin with, you're not going to see them bring suit -- some might even feel there's a sort of justice to stealing from thieves. Some might even argue that Hyman was doing both Hollywood & the gov a service, doing something that they could reasonably be expected to do themselves.

mikiem said,

RE: semantics, I'm not so sure "Piracy" even applies to copying content illegally -- like Wikipedia I stick to the traditional definition, i.e. piracy on the seas, figuring the only reason an org like the MPAA uses it is to prejudice judges/juries.

That said, if you bought 300,000 fake Rolex ....


Very good point. I wonder if the difference between theft and "piracy" or trademark issues comes down to whether or not it is a tabgible item. If I bought 300,000 fake Rolex(s) and handed them out - it would seem like a gift, nothing more nothing less. I dunno. It might have something to do with the fact a song or book being a perfect reproduction, indiscernible from the original maybe.

Interpretation all boils down to how good the lawyer is and how the judge sees it, just like everything else.

mikiem said,

I have no idea personally whether he was a sleaze or not, but it's quite possible the only way he could afford a laptop, blank discs, on-line connection etc. was by charging folks for whatever. His having a "top of the line 17" HP laptop fully loaded" might seem to imply he was in it for profit of some sort, but if it was loaded with malware that itself would imply he was a bit less knowledgeable about such things, & just maybe he has that particular laptop because he was an easy mark for some salesperson.

The reasons I called him a sleaze were the other things I saw in there. Him capitalizing on others who didnt have the cognitive ability to know what was going on, hell - they couldnt even tell you what their own name was, and those were the better ones. The bad ones were left to wither away at a table in a pool of drool infront of a TV. Very sad.

TEX4S said,

You are the one who needs to learn a bit Im afraid. Profit is not the defining factor for piracy... its theft. Getting 300,000 bootlegged movies and passing them around is indeed theft. Semantics really, letting 1 person make a copy - maybe thats sharing - sending them to thousands of troops - that is not sharing, thats distribution.
Not saying I wouldnt do it myself if in his shoes, but you need to know the difference

Theft? Here we go again. Piracy is not theft! Lets put it this way. have you ever seen those commercials that say.
"You wouldn't steal a handbag, you wouldn't steal a car, you wouldn't steal a DVD."
Well, let's put this advert into the actual context of what piracy is.
"you wouldn't download a handbag, you wouldn't download a car, you wouldn't download a DVD."
When put into its correct logical context, you can start to see where things start to break down. You cannot attach concepts which apply to the physical, to concepts that apply to the digital. Theft is just convenient for the MPAA to throw into the commercial, just because it already has negative connotations attached to it.

Buying

1-1+1=1 (assets are balanced)

theft

1-1=0 (assets a unbalanced and can't be recovered without loss)

Copying

1x∞-1=∞ (assets are still intact and can be ∞ replenished. A lost sail has occurred)

When you get into the realm of piracy, you step into a realm known as ideological crime. There is no actual physical damage or assets loss occurring during the activity. This is why the legal system seems to become a blubbering clueless mess when it comes to things like digital goods. The laws when written, had no concept of a product with zero scarcity. We are trying to apply old property concepts on an entity that can be infinitely duplicated by anyone, all to keep the monetary driver going, which by the way is an ideological force.

Ad Man Gamer said,

Theft? Here we go again. Piracy is not theft! Lets put it this way. have you ever ....

Well put. I was using the term that the anti- groups have made/suggested.

Point taken. Thanks