Hero Or Scoundrel? 92-Year-Old Pirates DVDs To Send To Troops Stationed Overseas

Making a copy of a new DVD to send to a loved one stationed overseas with the armed forces is something many people would consider just fine. Making thousands of copies of that same DVD for sale on street corners would likely earn some frowns from the public. But what about someone — especially an adorable nonagenarian World War II vet — who makes thousands of copies for the sole purpose of entertaining the troops?

“It’s not the right thing to do, but I did it,” says a 92-year-old man from New York who has become something of a folk hero to the soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq who have been on the receiving end of thousands of DVDs he pirated for their use. “If I were younger… maybe I’d be spending time in the hoosegow.”

He estimates that he’s copied and shipped more than 300,000 discs since he started his operation in 2004. Between the blank discs and shipping costs, he’s likely spent at least $30,000 of his own money in that time.

Surely irking Hollywood even more, the Long Island resident says he doesn’t make his copies from store-bought DVDs but from already-bootlegged versions of recent releases.

When the NY Times reached a rep for the MPAA — an organization not exactly known for its love of bootleggers — all he would say is, “We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home.”

At 92, a Bandit to Hollywood but a Hero to Soldiers [NY Times]

Thanks to Dov for the tip!

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  1. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    When I was in the Army, we had no trouble finding pirated DVDs on the local economy. This was in Kosovo back in 99/2000, when DVDs were still fairly new.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      It’s probably cheaper to buy a pirated copy overseas
      than to make “illegal” copies here and ship it overseas.

      • Southern says:

        Well you don’t exactly ship it overseas – you ship it to a P.O. Box in New York, or San Francisco, or something like that, then the Army/Navy/Air Force/Whoever takes over and forwards it to the unit on the shipping label.

        If you were to try and ship it physically to a location in Iraq or something, it’d probably never get there.

    • EllenRose says:

      Pirated DVDs were plentiful in Bangkok in 2005. There were street sellers with loads of covers. Ask for one, and the merchant would send somebody off to have the copy made.

      But I don’t think Allah approves of DVDs, and the folk who are sure they know what Allah approves of are sure he doesn’t. Might not be as easily available in Iraq or Afghanistan.

      • JennQPublic says:

        Wow. Just wow.

        You should try, I dunno, talking to someone from the middle east for a few minutes. Even fairly ‘conservative’ (by our standards) Muslims enjoy watching many forms of media. Sadly, many of them live in crappy countries (our constant bombing doesn’t help) where their access to DVD players and big-screen TVs is limited, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love to have them.

        /Shipping an Xbox and copies of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto to the Middle East next month. To conservative Muslims.

    • AEN says:

      Heck, pirated DVDs are plentiful in Kabul.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    “When the NY Times reached a rep for the MPAA ‚Äî an organization not exactly known for its love of bootleggers ‚Äî all he would say is, “We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home.”

    This is not the attitude they took with the thousands of other people that
    were sued for violations that were orders of magnitude smaller in scope.

    • FacebookAppMaker says:

      In tomorrows news:

      MPAA files multi-trillion dollar lawsuit against 92 year old for supporting overseas troops with entertainment.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        MPAA demands the whole of the United States and 100 miles
        of ocean as measured from the high water mark as reparations.

  3. bnceo says:

    Good intentions. Did it the wrong way. Just buy the actual movies. In fact, in bulk, you could probably get some bulk discount. Especially if it’s one without all the frills and bonus content.

    • Maz says:

      He was doing it with movies that were JUST hitting the theatres. He was keeping the soldiers current on entertainment. It is, in fact, a good way to remind the soldiers that there is a world waiting for them to return to. Watching M*A*S*H (the early seasons, not Alda’s), you got a real sense that the soldiers had serious disconnect being far from home for so long.

      • RandomHookup says:

        But that was long before the internet. While they are disconnected from a lot of things, it’s nowhere near what it was back in the ’50s.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I think there are organizations that send movies to the troops. Heck, there’s even a way to send DVDs to people at the International Space Station.

      • scoosdad says:

        “the early seasons, not Alda’s”

        Huh, what? Alan Alda was a major actor in the TV series M*A*S*H since the original pilot show right through to the final series-ending TV movie. I actually think the series got a lot better once he started getting involved in the story lines and did some directing. Before that it was just a goofy Army spoof show that continued very little of the biting humor or pathos that the original movie had.

        Maybe you’re thinking of The Three Stooges, the Shemp Years.

  4. dourdan says:

    new movies? if so he is a hero.

    on base, if movie ‘A’ was out the first week of April in the states, we would get it in 3 weeks (maybe.) the other choice was to go to the local movie theatre (in germany, this was the one near the basem because they knew about out movie issues, so they showed movies in both german and english.) but they were of couse expensive as all h***

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      When deployed (Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo) our main posts generally had some kind movie theater (usually, just a giant tent with a projector & screen). The movies were typically 6 months out of date but we never had to pay to see them. I think most of us saw more movies then, then at any other point in our lives. There was really nothing else to do when not out in sector.

  5. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I think I’ll go break into a store at night and ship everything I loot to soldiers overseas. Then it’s totally okay. Of course, I’ll wait until I am 92 to pull of this caper.

    • jrwn says:

      The difference is he copied the data, he didn’t take it. Think about him going to an art store and taking a picture of a picture. The original is still there

      • Thyme for an edit button says:

        I’ll go into a bookstore and take pictures of all the pages of some bestsellers then e-mail hundreds of thousands of copies to soldiers overseas. The originals are still there so it’s cool.

        • damicatz says:

          You still broke into the bookstore.

          No matter how much you try, you simply cannot equate infringement of imaginary property with “theft”.

          • Thyme for an edit button says:

            I did not break into the bookstore.

            No matter how much you try, intellectual property does not equal “imaginary property.”

            Property is not a physical thing. Property is a set of rights.

            • balderdashed says:

              You’re absolutely right. The notion that theft of intellectual property is not theft is simply bizarre. However, the MPAA has polluted their case and their credibility with equally absurd claims about the amount of damages they are owed for pirated DVDs (as if each pirated DVD would have otherwise been a retail sale). If the MPAA wants to play fast-and-loose with logic, it’s becomes more difficult to point out the hypocrisy on the other side. It’s also not helpful that copy-protection schemes are denying legitimate users the ability to enjoy the products they paid for. Still, theft is theft, whether what’s stolen is a refrigerator or intellectual property — and I couldn’t care less that the guy’s 92 and had “good motives.”

      • Abradax says:

        The “he didn’t steal it, he copied it” argument is ridiculous.

        He copied it with the intention of depriving the owners of the material the opportunity of making money on their work.
        And before you say “there is no proof they would have seen the movie if they didn’t get it for free” You are right. However, that doesn’t give them justification for illegally obtaining a copy of it and using someone else’s work without paying them for it, even if they wouldn’t have paid for it in the first place.

      • Southern says:

        I still think theft of intellectual property is theft, personally.

        For instance, let’s say you’re a musician (and maybe you are, how should I know)?

        You spend 6 months working on a song.. Writing every note, every word.. Working on it day and night until it’s just right. You know it’s going to be a hit.

        Just after you finish it, I break into your house and take the sheet music. But that’s ok, you have backups – or heck, I just xerox it on the handy dandy copier you’ve got in the corner, thereby leaving your original.

        I rush down to the copyright office and I copyright it (under my name, of course). I then sell it to some famous singer for $50,000, or better yet I record it myself, it goes Platinum, and I make $2,000,000 in royalties.

        Now.

        Are you going to accuse me of STEALING your song, or COPYING your song?

        • Thalia says:

          You’re seriously arguing that the troops would have bought these movies individual, had he not stolen them? No? Then what did the movie companies lose exactly?

          This is clearly copyright infringement. But good luck showing actual damages.

  6. hansolo247 says:

    Hope he did a good job!

    Other older gentlemen I know have done their DVDs copied via a composite video link…no anamporhic widescreen, bad color, stereo sound only, etc.

    Unwatchable!

    • majortom1981 says:

      HE copied it via a duplication machine. he boought the movie from people on the street and used the duplication machine to do the copies.

    • scoosdad says:

      Jerry Seinfeld on pirating movies from a theater via camcorder: “Now I’m gonna need two cameras, one in the balcony, and some kind of intercom so the cameramen can communicate.”

  7. SavijMuhdrox says:

    “We were going to prosecute him, but then he went and used the word ‘hoosegow’. All charges will be dropped, since we should have considered doing this ALREADY.”

  8. JPeek says:

    I’m overseas right now. And you can easily get bootlegged videos for $1 a disc.

    Also don’t forget the sneakernet. That is also pretty active. And usually when someone is done with a dvd they just give it away.

  9. mergatroy6 says:

    They have his picture in the linked article. He looks like the old man from Up.

  10. dwtomek says:

    Holy shit! Even the MPAA won’t dare fuck with the troops. That is saying something.

  11. scoutermac says:

    You could always claim you had to copy them to remove the region lock.

  12. wojonet says:

    VetsActive Military should get lots of free shit like this.

    • Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

      Disagree.

    • StarKillerX says:

      As a disabled vet I couldn’t disagree more.

      Vets deserve respect from the people and government of our country and we deserve to get what was promised us and nothing else. We don’t need to make vets a protected class that needs to be protected and/or excused.

      As for this man, it’s sad that he thinks copying pirated materials and shipping them overseas is supporting our troops.

      First if you want to show your support for our troops do so with YOU property and money and not that of others.

      Personally I think this disgraces him and the vets he claims to support.

    • Eyeheartpie says:

      Really? Why? Soldiers should get respect for what they do, not free stuff and preferential treatment. I can’t tell you how many people have tried to finagle upgrades and free food because they are family of military. We don’t need to encourage that kind of thinking. It shows entitlement.

  13. misterfweem says:

    FAT TONY: Bart, is it a crime to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?

    BART: No.

    FAT TONY: Well, what if you’ve got a large, starving family? And they don’t like bread, they like cigarettes. Is it a crime to steal a truckload of cigarettes to help them?

    BART: Hell no.

    FAT TONY: Good boy.

  14. Judah says:

    This guy was awesome.

  15. nick91884 says:

    When the NY Times reached a rep for the MPAA ‚Äî an organization not exactly known for its love of bootleggers ‚Äî all he would say is, “We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home.”

    In other words: “We are not touching this, not even with a ten foot pole”

  16. TuxMan says:

    Copyright infringement pales in comparison to government sanctioned murder.

  17. bdgbill says:

    92 Years old? Damn, I’m impressed. My 60 year old mother-in-law can’t even slide a DVD into the player we bought her and switch the TV to the DVD input.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      LOL I know. My mom bought a new flat screen TV with built in DVD player. She didn’t know it had a DVD player for over a year.

  18. SwaggeringCuban says:

    Alright

    so

    it’s not against the law because he’s… not making a profit? Because he’s old? Because it’s for the troops?
    Is this legit? Can I start bootlegging too?

    • Thalia says:

      Is it legal? No.
      Was he making a profit? No. He got the DVDs, never even watched them himself, just made copies & sent them out, on his own dime.
      Was he depriving the MPAA of likely profit? No. The soldiers were not local, and there was zero chance they would have bought the DVDs themselves.
      Is he a sympathetic plaintiff? Yes. Old, helping troops, and relieving his loneliness. Also he looks like the old guy from Up.

      That’s why they won’t touch this with a 100foot pole.

      So, if you do it not for your own enjoyment, for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain or buy legit copies, and are super sympathetic, go for it. Otherwise, you should expect a knock on the door from the man who serves summons for MPAA lawsuits.

  19. TuxMan says:

    300,000 discs? at an hour+ each? Best anti-war effort yet. He is helping the enemy, distracting the troops from their mission.

    • dentam says:

      It doesn’t take an hour to copy a dvd. 5 minutes at most, and my guess is that he’s copying more than one at a time.

      • SBR249 says:

        The article says 7 disks at a time. But what TuxMan is referring to is the time the soldiers spent watching the movies I think. But I say that’s hogwash.

  20. wiggie2gone says:

    A place in BIAP (Baghdad International Ariport) had bootlegs all for sale when I was over there in 2009. It’s also not like the military doesn’t know its going on cause they specifically make sure that you have less than so many copies per movie when leaving the country. Good for this man helping soldiers out.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      On my last deployment (~2000), the MPs who worked as customs spot checked us for pirated CD/DVDs, Cuban cigars, war trophies, and mud on our boots/shovels. That was pretty much it in terms of contraband.

      • wiggie2gone says:

        The security has gotten to be a little bit more stringent over the years. I remember being able to purchase and take home anything I really wanted to take back with me.

  21. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    the commments on slashdot were funnier.

  22. axolotl says:

    Hoosegow??

  23. Cicadymn says:

    inb4 lobbyist write that this old man must be hanged for his crimes into the CISPA bill.

  24. sendbillmoney says:

    I used to work in a claims office that handled military members’ claims for personal property lost or damaged due to military service. Returnees from downrange would have bootlegged DVDs/CDs stolen from their personal gear and want to claim store-bought replacement cost for the bootlegs. A word to the wise was sufficient: “I can’t give you legal advice, but hypothetically … does it sound like a good idea to file a written claim with the JAG office asking for reimbursement to replace the stolen property you bought and then had stolen from you?”

  25. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    “We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home.” – MPAA rep – leans over to Satan….let’s show the old man what we do!

    I’m more impressed with the man knowing taking the time to learn how to burn DVDs. He should write a book for older people on how to do this…possible title: “Geriatric Burning”

  26. rdclark says:

    Who cares if you see it six months after it comes out? That’s normal for most people here at home, too. I haven’t seen a first-run movie in a theater in years.

  27. Torchwood says:

    So, where can I send my Wishes of Movie Distraction to the troops overseas?

  28. duncanblackthorne says:

    “Hero” or “Scoundrel”? How about “Magnificent bastard”? :-)

  29. hotpocketdeath says:

    I was in Kosovo in 99. 9th Eng Battlion 1st ID.

    And I agree. CDs and DVDs were pretty common to get.

    When I went to Iraq in 2005/06, Pirated DVD’s were commonplace. The Army even allows these items to be sold on the bases.

  30. CoachTabe says:

    $30,000 for 300,000 discs including shipping? I’d love to know where he’s getting blanks for a dime apiece let alone for a dime apiece including shipping overseas.

  31. shthar says:

    If he really wanted to be a hero, he’d have sent porn.

  32. AdviceDog says:

    Sharing is caring.

  33. Earl Butz says:

    Throw his ass in jail and let him rot.

    If it’s good enough for a single mom, it’s good enough for a “highly decorated World War II vet that can’t possibly survive even a day in country lockup”.

  34. consumerd says:

    I don’t see this being much of a problem. after all why send the good DVD overseas when it might be shot up/dystroyed by the first crazy person with a gun…

    I would send them a copy, least then they can enjoy the material, and if the disk gets damaged, it’s no real loss.