Since 2004, Hyman “Big Hy” Strachman has sent over 300,000 bootlegged movie discs to military units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Never expecting any money and using an estimated $30,000 of his own coin, the 92-year-old took up the hobby of bootlegging after his wife over more than 50 years died. According to this incredible piece in the New York Times, Strachman discovered a site that cataloged soldier requests for care packages, and after noticing that many asked for DVDs, he started an operation that started slow and evolved (with the help of a professional disc burner) into an enterprise that saw hundreds of movies copied every day.
The practice re-connects him, a World War II vet, to the military, and the result so far has been a few binder’s worth of Thank You notes but no legal notifications from studios.
Even with a staunch anti-piracy view, it’s difficult to deny the sweetness of an old man using all of his time and a lot of his own resources to ensure that a specific group of men and women get a chance to see movies that wouldn’t normally be able to see in their downtime between mortar attacks. Of course, the difference rests in an arbitrary sense of fairness. There’s little honor in clicking a button and waiting a few minutes to see what thousands worked hard to create. However, there just might be something fantastic about a man working around the clock and shipping hard copies half-way around the world to military personnel who need a distraction.
Either way that piece is a must-read. Strachman might be an outlier, but he challenges the perceived face of piracy.
Photo Credit: Todd Heisler/New York Times