Prolific DVD Bootlegger Is 92 Year-Old WWII Veteran

The MPAA often loves to talk about just how evil DVD bootleggers are. They’re the ones that the MPAA most frequently uses to draw a “connection” between “piracy” and “organized crime.” Because of DVD bootleggers, we even got a ridiculous, 4th Amendment-ignoring law in California that lets police search DVD printing plants at random with no warrant, just to make sure they’re not making copies of movies without authorization. Of course, law enforcement also has a history of seizing authorized DVDs and insisting they were pirated.

So, you have to imagine that the MPAA’s PR team is not particularly pleased with the NY Times’ profile of one of the most prolific DVD bootleggers out there: a 92-year old World War II veteran named Hyman Strachman, who bootlegs a ton of DVDs every month and ships them off to US soldiers abroad:

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.

“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.

There are some great pictures in the article, which show that he’s actually using some sophisticated equipment, including a professional DVD duplicator that lets him make seven copies at once. He estimates that he spends about 60 hours a week bootlegging movies. By his own estimates, he sends about 80,000 DVDs per year, and has probably sent over 300,000 total since he started. And soldiers in the field love him for it.

An MPAA spokesperson admits that he “did not believe [the MPAA] studios were aware of Mr. Strachman’s operation” and then delicately stated, “We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to [soldiers] while they are away from home.” However, you have to imagine that they’re seething about the NY Times highlighting how much good a bootlegging operation can do.

Of course, the real shame in all of this is that the MPAA could — and probably should — be doing this directly themselves. They should be providing DVDs or streams free of charge to the military. Instead, in their insane fear of piracy, they make it complicated to impossible for soldiers to view films, even when they decide to send them over: “studios do send military bases reel-to-reel films, which are much harder to copy, and projectors for the troops overseas.” Because that’s exactly what you want for soldiers in the field: having to carry around and mess with heavy and annoying equipment that’s likely to break.

As for Strachman, he seems to hope that his age and the fact that he’s not doing this for money will protect him:

“If I were younger, maybe I’d be spending time in the hoosegow.”

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