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WW2 Vet Sent 300,000 Pirated DVDs To Troops In Iraq, Afghanistan 650

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
nbauman writes "WW2 veteran 'Big Hy' Strachman, 92, pirated 300,000 DVD movies and sent them to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they were widely distributed and deeply appreciated. Soldiers would gather around personal computers for movie nights, with mortars blasting in the background. 'It's reconnecting to everything you miss,' said one. Strachman received American flags, appreciative letters, and snapshots of soldiers holding up their DVDs. He spent about $30,000 of his own money. Strachman retired from his family's window and shade business in Manhattan in the 1990s. After his wife Harriet died in 2003, he spent sleepless nights on the Internet, and saw that soldiers were consistently asking for movie DVDs. He bought bootlegged disks for $5 in Penn Station, and then found a dealer at his local barbershop. He bought a $400 duplicater that made 7 copies at once, and mailed them 84 at a time, to Army Chaplains. The MPAA said they weren't aware of his operation. The studios send reel-to-reel films to the troops."
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WW2 Vet Sent 300,000 Pirated DVDs To Troops In Iraq, Afghanistan

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  • by devilsdean (888911) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:22PM (#39822257)
    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.
  • by beschra (1424727) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:30PM (#39822375)

    Which, of course, is why they won't go after him. But I wonder if inaction in this case would work against them in future cases?

  • by IDtheTarget (1055608) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:34PM (#39822427)

    I just got back from a deployment to Afghanistan, and I can tell you that sometimes the only way to get to sleep is by watching something that will get your mind off of what's really going on. My favorite was light comedies and sitcoms.

    I didn't know about this guy. We got most of our movies over there from local vendors who would sell pirated copies (that's legal in Afghanistan). The MPAA is getting the Customs Service and DoD to crack down, though. We used to be able to buy whatever we wanted from the locals and bring them home. Then when I came home from Iraq in 2008, we were allowed to bring one copy of each movie/TV show, and that was fine as well. This time when we were coming home we were told that we could only bring one item, period. Which was fine, again, because now we're ripping the movies to our hard-drives, anyway. I wonder how long it'll be until the MPAA gets the Customs Service to look at all of the content of our laptop hard drives on re-deploying back to the U.S....

    If you were lucky enough to be stationed at Bagram Air Field, then you had a PX where you could by legit movies for full price, but for most of us stuck out at various FOBs scattered across the country, the local guy was all we had. Hopefully the Pentagon Pukes don't listen to the MPAA and take that away from us, or we'll be in a world of hurt over there. This deployment sucked pretty bad. Not sure what'll happen if the next one is even worse due to those greedy MoFo's in the MPAA...

  • They still got their dig in, it was just subtle:

    Although the most costly piracy now takes place online through file-sharing Web sites,...

    ORLY?

  • by BagOBones (574735) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:37PM (#39822499)

    I know what you are saying, however from a practical aspect film is an awful choice for any war environment since it degrades so easily... Hell film gets scratched and fades in air-conditioned theaters with a trained projectionist running them. I wonder how long reel to reel film lasts in a tent in the desert (dust, sand, heat)?

  • by markg11cdn (1087925) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:42PM (#39822583)
    I thought for sure the 'reel-to-reel' in the summary was a joke, but here's a quote from TFA :

    And while Mr. Strachmans 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.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:44PM (#39822635) Homepage Journal

    Haw they would rather face the nukes than the public opinion on this one.
    Let's see who we can go after.
    The 92 year old widower WWII Vet that spent 30,000 of his own money to send DVDs to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?
    Or the Chaplins that distributed them to the troops?

    So do you want to take on an old man that risked his live in WWII fighting Hitler or the Japanese and that spent his own money to help the troops?
    Or do you go after the Chaplins?
    In an election year where it would be easy for people running for office to want to take on the rich cocain drunk godless heathens in Hollywood for Good and country?

  • Lost Revenues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VorpalRodent (964940) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:44PM (#39822639)

    So, based on the MPAA model for determining damages, doesn't 300K bootleg DVDs represent something approaching the GDP of many small nations? I mean, I haven't done the math, but 300K, times $10 on the shelf at Walmart, means that these companies lost somewhere over $200B.

    Considering he received flags, which have a monetary value, he was getting revenue from this operation. This is a criminal enterprise of epic proportions.

    This 92 year old man, a patriot, who supported hundreds of thousands of troops who were serving their country...must be the absolute scum of the earth.

    But seriously - as long as I can make it patriotic and for a great cause, I can get away with something that has quite clearly crossed the line into "This has got to be illegal, no matter how you cut it"? Doesn't that suggest something is wrong with the law in the first place? What if I was making bootlegs for crippled orphans?

  • Re:Stealing is bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by robot256 (1635039) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:50PM (#39822715)
    They'll probably try to write off all those "lost sales" as "donations" on their taxes and get a nice fat donation themselves from the taxpayers.
  • by Viewsonic (584922) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:27PM (#39823337)

    This will make it really hard for them to go after anyone at this point. You can't just dismiss people like this without looking like you're carrying a personal vendetta/grudge/race/sexual orientation/religious whatever against one person and another. The next person that gets dragged to court will ask why their client is being targeted while this other man is not.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:28PM (#39823339)

    Why should the MPAA et al be giving free entertainment to troops?

    Why aren't the armed forces supplying it in the same manner as this gentleman? Why aren't there extensive libraries at every deployment base, with ereaders and movie players?

  • by jesseck (942036) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:38PM (#39823485)

    I noticed the same in 2005 and 2007 returning from Iraq... in 2005, a light, cursory search by a couple Marines. Nothing invasive. In 2007, we had to travel to Kuwait to have some pogue sea-bees strip search our shit, like we were criminals. We had to go through explosive detectors (we were in combat 2 weeks prior, carrying explosives) and empty out our pockets- as if one of us, after surviving Fallujah, would want to bring down a plane on our way home. That pissed me off. We couldn't bring any ripped movies back with us, and were threatened with laptop searches.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:55PM (#39823739)

    I doubt they were worried that you would bring down a plane just for kicks, but it hasn't been terribly uncommon for troops to return home with a few "keepsakes", like live grenades, that Uncle Sam might not want you to keep on your nightstand. It's nothing personal, and you can blame the troops who came before you if you really take issue with it; they're the ones who kept pushing the envelope until somebody with stars decided that having you searched was the only way to ensure operational security.

  • by Sir.Cracked (140212) on Friday April 27, 2012 @02:01PM (#39823823) Homepage

    I was a Comm troop deployed to an airbase in Pakistan in 2004. While there, the OIC for the Comm flight (Officer in Charge of all communications) thought it would be a brilliant idea to order the "morale" servers shut down. These were essentially just file servers that people had dumped music and movies to as they cycled through, and were pretty much the only access to entertainment we had at a rather isolated base. He was on a kick for going to JAG or IA, and figured shutting down some copyright infringement would be a good point for his transfer and for his oak leaves. What actually happened was even the base commander was pissed, and at a commander's call a couple days later, (aka an official, in uniform, at attention kind of meeting), when he got up to speak, he was booed. Thinking back on it still shocks me to this day. If a single airman ever booed an officer in a commanders call, there'd be UCMJ action, no question. But an entire base of airmen spontaneously and unanimously booed him. It would be akin to the CIO getting booed at a shareholder meeting or press conference, where the board can legally imprison any attendee they care to.

    (In the end he stood up and promised a "legal" solution to the problem would be deployed within 24 hours. Myself and my co-server types looked at each other, decided he was talking out of his ass, and just turned the regular servers back on at the appointed time).

  • Re:War criminal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Friday April 27, 2012 @02:31PM (#39824293)

    Get this geezer a copy of vlc and some Matroskas stat.

    Given the fact that this is in the New York Times, what do you think the chances are that some savvy NY geeks will try to hook this guy up with a better system? They could spend only a few hundred or couple thousand of their own pooled bucks and get this guy a system to really crank it out. Set him up with an autoloader so it can burn while he sleeps, and a friendly GUI to pick what to burn. A small group of geeks pooling their resources and donating a little of their time could have a huge impact on a lot of deployed soldiers. And it would be nice to let this guy know that he's got friends other than the soldiers he's sending these to. You just need to do it without generating any publicity.

    Get to it!

  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Friday April 27, 2012 @02:56PM (#39824621) Journal

    I challenge the MPAA to file suit against him. He sent 300,000 DVDs which were probably watched by several times that many people, and it's all verifiable. Contrast that to file sharing suits where an individual user might be sued for making a few movies available to be downloaded a relatively few times from which MPAA has claimed huge losses from each individual user.

  • by cavePrisoner (1184997) on Friday April 27, 2012 @04:41PM (#39826121)
    It isn't Vietnam. The culture is different. And you wouldn't want to touch a local if you had the chance. Most of locals don't exactly live up to our hygiene standards to say the least. Most prostitution is of our own soldiers. It depends on the level of discipline in the unit whether that will happen. But combat units usually don't have females. My company did have a few females that were medics and other odd jobs, but transferred them out to avoid problems. Definitely the right call.
  • by bkmoore (1910118) on Friday April 27, 2012 @05:41PM (#39826889)

    No offense taken, it's a legitimate question. I was in Iraq for two tours. When we left the FOB (Forward Operating Base), we were in enemy territory. I could not imagine a Marine or Soldier going off to get his jollies in his down time. The chance of being abducted and getting your head cut off on video was too great, not to mention the inevitable IEDs. But all this aside, almost all the locals had exotic parasites. Our medical staff were constantly treating them. Again, I have known plenty of dumb Marines in my day, but I cannot imagine anyone dumb enough to go out, risk his life and come back with worms or worse. But I do remember in about 2008, they busted some female Sailors or Air Persons for running a brothel on the base. They got caught trying to take a seabag full of cash back home and couldn't explain where it came from.

  • Re:Well that's okay (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tore S B (711705) on Friday April 27, 2012 @07:20PM (#39828023) Homepage

    I daresay I have a wider sample size than that, but it doesn't mean much since I'm a Norwegian politician, and those I've talked to are people I've come into contact with in that context. Maybe you too, presumably being American, have a sample bias? The plural of anecdote is not fact. In this case, it's probably best to google around for some polls. Much to my dismay, most polls returned by Google and Wikipedia deal with US popular opinion on the invasion rather than Iraqi popular opinion, but I did find one.

    Overall, 59% of those questioned think Britain's role is negative, 22% positive; 64% say the US is negative, 18% positive; 68% view Iran negatively, 12% positively. Also, 56% think the 2003 invasion was wrong (up 6%), while 42% say it was right (down 7%).

    Source: BBC [bbc.co.uk]

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