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.