The Most Awesome Story Ever Told: Big Hy
You must read this story from The New York Times, including the pictures and the audio:
|Mr. Strachman's hobby has renewed his sense of comradeship with United States military personnel overseas, a connection formed during his service in World War II.|
OYE Comment: We are so pleased that Mr. Hyman "Big Hy" Strachman has found an effective way to Support Our Troops, and commend him for doing so at some personal risk and, of course, at his own expense.MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. — 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.With the United States military presence in those regions dwindling, Big Hy Strachman will live on in many soldiers’ hearts as one of the war’s more shadowy heroes.“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.”[ . . . ]As for his brazen violation of domestic copyright laws, Mr. Strachman nodded guiltily but pointed to his walls, which are strewed with seven huge American flags, dozens of appreciative letters, and snapshots of soldiers holding up their beloved DVDs.“Every time I got back an emotional e-mail or letter, I sent them another box,” he said, adding that he had never accepted any money for the movies or been told by any authorities to stop.“I thought maybe because I’m an old-timer,” he said.[ . . . ]
After Mr. Strachman’s wife of more than half a century, Harriet, died in 2003, he discovered a Web site that collected soldiers’ requests for care packages. He noted a consistent plea for movie DVDs and wound up passing his sleepless nights replicating not only the films, but also a feeling of military comradeship that he had not experienced since his own service in the Pacific during World War II.
“I wouldn’t say it kept him alive, but it definitely brought back his joie de vivre,” said Mr. Strachman’s son, Arthur, a tax accountant in New York.[ . . . ] The contraband, which he said could take up to three months to arrive, was addressed to an Army chaplain. “Chaplains don’t sell them, and they fan out,” Mr. Strachman said. “The distribution is great.”
The movie studios are less enthusiastic. Although the most costly piracy now takes place online through file-sharing Web sites, the illegal duplication of copyright DVDs — usually by organized crime in Eastern Europe and China, not by retirees in their 90s in the American suburbs — still siphons billions of dollars out of the industry every year. And while Mr. Strachman’s 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.
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.
[ . . . ]
Before long, the sole evidence of his operation will be on his walls and on a little bookshelf, next to his cholesterol-control pills and a few envelopes of farina, where seven three-ring binders overflow with letters and pictures, most addressed to “Big Hy,” from appreciative soldiers.
“Our downtime is spent watching movies as we clean our weapons,” one handwritten note said.
Another accompanied a flag from a combat mission over Afghanistan: “I can think of no one more deserving than you, and no one who understands what this flag stands for and means to our veterans.” [ . . . ]
Why? Because it's the right thing to do.
We acknowledge that this is illegal, in part because Hollywood/MPAA successfully keeps persuading Congress to extend copyright protections indefinitely, and hires high-priced corporate legal talent to convince the Supreme Court that an indefinite series of extensions still qualifies as "limited Times" under the U.S. Constitution [Article I, Section 8].
However, we also acknowledge that few if any 1% Hollywood big shots personally know any enlisted servicemembers or junior officers -- those most at risk in combat -- and that at least the MPAA is politically astute enough to surrender (see quote above) on this point. We thank the MPAA for exercising good judgment and common sense.
All of that said, if the MPAA really cared about Supporting Our Troops, once it became aware of what the troops really wanted, its members would already be sending them free DVDs. It's not as if our troops can pay theater admission or buy authorized DVDs on FOB Nowhere, Afghanistan [or pre-2012 Iraq], anyway. Nor are MPAA-authorized reel screenings likely to take place beyond the very large bases.
Think of how the MPAA could still leverage such good feeling for America. It's a missed opportunity.
Please also note how much our troops appreciate "Big Hy." Busy servicemembers don't always send thank-you notes or, sometimes, even e-mails, but don't let it worry you. Just look at the photos below showing the strength of the connection between those in harm's way and a real American patriot, "Big Hy."
It is profound.
|Hyman Strachman, 92, has sent hundreds of illicitly copied movies to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.|
And here's why:
|Dozens of letters and pictures of soldiers holding up his DVDs line the walls in Mr. Strachman's apartment in Massapequa, N.Y.|
|Seven three-ring binders overflow with letters and pictures from appreciative soldiers, most addressed to "Big Hy."|