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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 BagOBones (574735) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:18PM (#39822191)

    Nice to see the studios have been keeping up with the times.

    • back to the future: where hawkeye and hotlips were still current characters...

    • by BackwardPawn (1356049) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:33PM (#39822425)
      Its probably so they can be paid anytime a soldier watches a film. If they sent them DVDs, they'd get distributed among the troops. The film snob in me wants to say film is a chemical process that even the best digital projection couldn't match and the MPAA wants our troops to have the best...but I know that has nothing to do with it.
      • 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 ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:43PM (#39822615) Homepage

          They're not sending the films out with patrols. They're showing them at base theaters which have more technical support and equipment than anything Main St. can rustle up. Of course, DVDs can be used to entertain small groups or individuals but that would give people more options than what is good for them.

          • by idontgno (624372) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:43PM (#39823543) Journal

            They're not sending the films out with patrols. They're showing them at base theaters

            Well, that's great, then. Any of those troops out there at some God-forsaken FOB can just catch a ride back to the main base for their movie nights out. They don't need entertainment in their little tent camps. They have the Taliban for that.

            BTW, I'm not picking on you. It's not your idea, and I'm sure you're right about how it really works. I'm a retired Air Force guy, and if I understand correctly, most of us in-country are still pretty much base-bound. If so, this cartoon [mudvillegazette.com] characterizes the inequities of campaign life: The REMFs get all the good stuff, the guys at the pointy end pretty much get the shaft. And the guy who was the subject of TFA did what it takes to fix this one little inequity. I hope he doesn't catch the shaft himself, since 300,000 counts of willful copyright infringement probably exposes him to something like 300 death sentences.

            • by davester666 (731373) on Friday April 27, 2012 @02:07PM (#39823937) Journal

              He's going to find out he just doubled our national debt. Intentional copyright infringement = more than statutory damages.

            • 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 @03:32PM (#39825089)
              I'm an army guy, so I have a different perspective. EVERYONE needs some entertainment/escape, but nobody's catching a ride to somewhere else for a friggin movie. That's why reel to reel doesn't make sense. The soldiers most in need don't have access to it. Soldiers usually have laptops. In Afghanistan, there are no copyright laws anyway. You can buy pirated movies through local shops by the truckload. They'll even let you bring back your pirated movies through customs as long as they are for personal use. ie, you can't have a bunch of copies of the same movie.

              If you really want make a soldier happy, you have remember that they might be at a tiny outpost with a platoon of young men all deployment. They might not have seen a female for months. Yes, send porn.
          • by rockout (1039072) on Friday April 27, 2012 @05:04PM (#39826419)

            base theaters which have more technical support and equipment than anything Main St. can rustle up.

            Not that this is very important to the topic at hand, but as a former member of our military that spent 5 years overseas, I can tell you that the base theaters pretty much all suck, the sound is awful and the projection is worse, and we went off-base wherever it was possible to watch movies instead. Of course, it's not possible to do that in Iraq or Afghanistan. Just don't tell me about "technical support and equipment" - even if we had it, it sure didn't go into making our base theater any better. Those places blow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:18PM (#39822209)

    Are they talkies at least?

    • by sjames (1099)

      I believe just last week, the only copy of "The Moon is Blue" was finally sent to Afghanistan from Korea.

  • That (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:19PM (#39822225) Journal
    That is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:20PM (#39822227)

    Sending a bunch of crappy bootleg cams to the troops should be considered a war crime.

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

    • 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 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 boaworm (180781) <boaworm@gmail.com> on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:22PM (#39822261) Homepage Journal

    Given that they go after ISPs for downloading, should they not go after the post office to be consistently persistent?

    Would be a lovely case to see go to court! They could sentence him to community service...

  • Quote from article (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:25PM (#39822301) Journal
    It was completely willful:

    “It’s not the right thing to do, but I did it,” Mr. Strachman said, acknowledging that his actions violated copyright law. “If I were younger,” he added, “maybe I’d be spending time in the hoosegow.”

    The guy spent $30,000 of his own money to do it. Maybe the MPAA could sue him for a portion of the 'profits'. The best part is he was continuing to make copies, right there, while they were interviewing him. It's brought joy back to his life.

    • by snl2587 (1177409)

      I don't quite understand the level of hate against the MPAA.

      I understand the hate against the RIAA, because the only real cost in producing a record is equipment, which is normally handled by the small recording studios anyway (which typically get paid at the point of recording). In the age of digital distribution, the RIAA seems pointless, since it does little to protect artists but seems to only benefit outdated middle men.

      But at the moment, bankrolling a Hollywood-quality movie is no small undertaking; i

      • Both the RIAA and MPAA spend huge amounts of money lobbying for abusive legislation designed to curtail our freedom and privacy, even if you're not a "pirate".

        Whether they're pointless or not is irrelevant.

      • by sjames (1099) on Friday April 27, 2012 @03:43PM (#39825283) Homepage

        There's plenty of reason to hate them. They gave us such wonders as DVDCSS, region coding which we get to pay for every time we buy a DVD drive even if we don't watch movies. They gave us HDCP so even connecting one's own video camera and computer up to a TV is a pain. They gave us all the crap protection on BluRay as well. We get to pay for that too. Don't even start on the crazy content protection and de-resing on a Windows machine, even for content you produce yourself. They tried to get the VCR banned. They are why so many PVRs are locked down.

        Lets not forget all the under the table money to get copyright law perverted to their cause and to use the publicaly funded FBI as their own private copyright cops. In turn, that brings us things like the whole Megaupload situation (crushing rule of law and due process on two continents).

        All of that affects people whether they ever watch movies or not.

        Meanwhile, since they are so adamant about strict honesty and propriety, they must be paragons of ethical virtue, right? (OK,OK, you can stop laughing now, you're going to break a rib that way!).

        They moved out west in the first place so they could freely 'pirate' Edison's patents. Their shady accounting practices are so legendary that they're named for them. According to their official figures, no movie in recent memory has ever made a single penny in profit. One wonders how they keep going decade after decade losing money like that!

        But yeah, other than that, they're fine, upstanding coke snorting narcissists. What's not to like?

  • by future assassin (639396) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:27PM (#39822327) Homepage

    did what corporations couldn't or wouldn't because of few measly lost dollars, which would have brought in millions worth of good will.

    Here's an idea maybe we should have a send the troops a bootleg campaign. Imagine 1 million bootleg dvd's being sent out lol..... The MPAA cry would be heard in every corner of the world Khaaaaaaaaaaa....

  • How American... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:28PM (#39822353)

    the place where a mother can go bankrupt in the trial for download a cartoon for their kids, and a man can make whatever he wants because he took a job when he was 16, 70 years ago... and we applauded... awesome...

  • Seriously? (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:32PM (#39822407)

    The studios send reel-to-reel films to the troops.

    Did you send them vinyl records too?
    Maybe a few laserdiscs?

  • 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...

    • by berashith (222128) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:51PM (#39822727)

      thank you for what you have done, and I am glad you are safe enough to type this

    • 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 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).

  • by mrbill1234 (715607) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:34PM (#39822439)

    "The studios send reel-to-reel films to the troops"

    As if this were not proof enough that the studios and the MPAA are out of touch with reality.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cosgrach (1737088) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:51PM (#39822747)

    This man is a hero.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:52PM (#39822765) Journal

    When old guys who tend to be "conservative" are doing things like this, the battle is over. I'm picturing an Iwo Jima like flag planted over the smoking, bombed-out corpse-strewn wastelands of the **AA orgs.

    The old guys are relaxing and smoking a J when that flag is properly planted too. You google around, you see plenty of people with gray hair smoking pot. Same deal. The DEA and the **AAs just haven't got the memo yet, so watch out; but they are dead, Dead, DEAD. As soon as a Gen-Ys get into power, so fucking DEAD.

    • One old guy did this. It ain't a movement yet.

      That said, I've always wondered why there aren't more people with nothing to lose out there righting the world's wrongs. Always chalked it up to, when you get that old, you just don't have the energy care anymore.

      As for Gen-Y killing the **AA--hah. Good luck. You realize that when Gen-Y is in power, they'll be in power in the **AA too, and won't want to give that up, right?

  • by Steve1952 (651150) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:53PM (#39822783)
    Let's see: According to the DMCA, at $150,000 per offense, times 300,000 DVD's, this would be $4.5 x 10 to the 10th dollars, or roughly a $45 billion dollar penalty. Did I do my math right? Can he take it out of his social security check at $40 per month for roughly the next 100 million years or so?
  • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:54PM (#39822793)
    and send them to my son when he was in Iraq. He said they got passed around a lot. They liked the latest TV stuff even more than movies.
  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:05PM (#39822991) Journal

    ...is how we can contribute to his effort.

  • ...I have ever heard in my life.

    People, we need to take a lesson from this great American. Not only has he figured out how to stick to the MPAA, he figured out how to do it while looking like a fucking HERO. No jury in America would convict this dude.

    Bravo!

    It brings a tear to my eye. It's so beautiful in its utter simplicity. Why the hell didn't *I* think of this?

    Soldiers of freedom: We must follow his example. I want the troops FLOODED with bootleg DVDs. They must never be without the latest movie or TV show.

  • by SpzToid (869795) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:17PM (#39823201)

    And the US Military is guilty of receiving 300,000 counterfeit disks. It isn't as if the guy had an address book of a lot of soldiers to distribute disks to directly.

    And if the military accepts reel-to-reels from Hollywood when DVDs or better-yet downloads will do, that's gotta be another crime right committed there. And thus a quandary to consider.

    But if I was the judge, Mr. Strachman wouldn't even get a slap on the wrist from me because those soldiers deserve everything we can give them; while reel-to-reel is idiotic in 2012, in a war zone. But those chaplains, oh they'll have Hell to pay for distributing discs with IP far and wide.

  • by sdguero (1112795) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:26PM (#39823315)
    Almost as soothing as a south park episode. :)

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