Woz, Empire, and a tale of early Apple copyright violation

Over on Modern Mechanix, commenter Rick Auricchio shares several anecdotes about the early days at Apple, including a little late night copyright violation by Sir Woz himself:
We used to line up a half-dozen of the VCRs and copy tapes. Just plop ‘em on an unused desk, cable ‘em all up, and push all the buttons. This was bad enough, but then Steve Wozniak wanted a tape of the newly-released “The Empire Strikes Back.” He bribed a San Diego projectionist to “borrow” the print from the cinema and drive it to Los Angeles in the dead of night. After several hours in a transfer facility, he had a 3/4″ U-Matic professional copy of the film print, and the projectionist high-tailed it back to the cinema to return the print. That tape also made its way into the copying chain. We were perhaps the first half-dozen people with videotape copies of the film. (I discarded my heavily-letterboxed copy years ago…) Woz later mentioned that the 4000-foot film reels wouldn’t fit the 3000-foot tables on the transfer machine, so they spent extra time cutting the print into sections that would fit, then spliced it back into its original form. Film companies, however, are very cautious that nobody steals frames from a film, lest they be printed into illegal still photos. The prints were examined to detect frame-stealing. Woz never asked whether the splices got the projectionist into any trouble; an occasional splice could be due to a film break, but not several at regular intervals.
Portable VCR's [Modern Mechanix]
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9 Responses to Woz, Empire, and a tale of early Apple copyright violation

  1. Chinese Jet Pilot says:

    The $1500 price tag on a VCR (in 1980 dollars) was an effective form of DRM in those days.

  2. bunnyman2112 says:

    Hey, major props due to the Woz! Why? Well, besides this, he dates Kathy Griffin and has been taken in as an honorary ‘billionare bear” in the gay community. Who wouldn’t dig that?

  3. bunnyman2112 says:

    Make that DATED Kathy G. I’m a bit remiss on my celeb relationships, I guess… Still my fave bear, though.

  4. seyo says:

    The Woz was buff!

  5. Jake Bullet says:


    Speaking of gay, Chewbacca looks like he could become an honorary member as well.

  6. strider_mt2k says:

    No DRM holding him back I see.

    Wow, how much money did George Lucas and those hardworking people in the industry lose because of his piracy?

    “I learned it by watching YOU, OKAY!”

  7. EddieR says:

    Something sublime about chewy’s head on david lee roth’s body..

  8. mujadaddy says:

    “an occasional splice could be due to a film break, but not several at regular intervals.”

    Firstly, when a film breaks, frames HAVE to be removed.

    Secondly, there’s NO WAY to know that these “3,000 foot splices” are at regular intervals when examining the film stock. It’s just not possible.

  9. Joel Johnson says:


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