I don’t care what your feelings are about the legality or illegality surrounding bootlegged/pirated DVD’s, you have to admit that Strachman’s (known by the soldiers as Big Hy) actions are impressive, if morally ambiguous. After the man’s wife died in 2003, Big Hy needs something to do to fill his spare time. He decided to take up buying bootlegged DVD’s from a guy at his local barber shop, copying them hundreds of times, and then shipping the boxes to troops. By the way, he payed for all of the materials himself (an estimated personal expense of $30,000). That is certainly one way to stay busy.
Now, at first it’s not surprising that that no one from MAFIAA has come after Big Hy, considering the story behind his endeavors, but then you start to do the math. Assuming the average DVD sells for about $20, we’re talking about roughly $6 million in revenue, all stolen by one guy. And let’s face it, due Big Hy’s tendency to send out newer, sometimes unreleased titles, $20 is a pretty conservative estimate. Yet, even when considering the sheer volume of this solo operation, when you read the quote from a MPAA representative in the above NY Times article, it’s clear that going after a 92 year old veteran widower is a tricky PR situation nobody wants a part of.
“We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them [the troops] while they are away from home.” I translate that to mean “Please don’t ask me about this, this is moral grey area we really don’t want to get into.” I mean, just look at that guys walls in the picture above. They’re adorned with American flags and thank you letters from grateful troops who have enjoyed his movies.
Again, regardless of your feelings about the pandemic affecting the music and film industry, painting Big Hy as anything but a hero is a pretty tough sell. The man sacrificed thousands of dollars and years of his life to giving the soldiers overseas some enjoyment. That’s a pretty admirable thing. Moreover, Hy never once copied a store bought DVD, and after copying them, he destroyed his bootlegged copy. It’s pretty obvious he didn’t have any sort of malicious intent.
I love stories like this. It reminds me that there are gray areas everywhere in life, and that it’s important to remember to look past the surface level when making judgements. If you had seen the headline “Brooklyn Man bootlegs 300,000 DVDs in his apartment,” you might have thought “Well I’m glad he got busted, stuff like that can undermine the economy,” and you would have never even known about Big Hy’s miraculous story. I just hope that when I’m older I can be as selfless as Hy, and that I can do so without being busted by The Man. Keep on doing what you’re doing Big Hy, you have my support.
And Get a Medical Alert, man. 92 and living alone? We want you to keep burning DVD’s for our soldiers for years to come.