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Say Goodbye to Binge-Watching on Kanopy

By Sierra Petro

The homepage of the streaming service Kanopy, which the Purchase community will no longer have unlimited access to. (Photo by Sierra Petro)

The library can no longer afford to purchase books after charges on the streaming website, Kanopy, doubled what was budgeted for. The library is switching to a limited version of the service effective immediately.

Kanopy, primarily used at Purchase by the film and cinema studies departments, was introduced to the college in 2015. The service offers a wealth of foreign films, documentaries, independent films and art films.

According to the Interim Director of Digital Accessibility, Rebecca Albrecht Oling, the service had worked well with the library's budget because there was a financial cap. Once the pilot ended, however, communication lacked between the library and the service. Costs mounted with the service that costs $120 to license a film and has a licensing threshold of four views and 30 seconds.

The app is primarily an educational tool for film and cinema studies professors to assign hard-to-find movies to students, but many students were also using the service leisurely.

"Professors will be like, 'You have to watch this movie from the '70s that's nowhere to be found,' and I can find that stuff on Kanopy. I also have a lot of friends that go on it all the time and watch a bunch of movies," said Ruby Makkena, a film student.

Makkena said she uses a personal account on Kanopy, like other film and cinema studies students. She created the account using her Purchase email and said she was unaware of the charges to the college by the service.

"The professors are always telling us how much things cost and we have classes on budgeting, so I'm sure if the professors knew they would have told us," said Makkena.

The library learned of the amounting charges last semester after Kanopy's marketing increased towards students and faculty after the streaming site, Filmstruck, was shut down.

Oling said that she got access to the license dashboard to look at cost per use trends in 2017. Oling also said she only got to see the full extent of these potential liabilities just before the former director retired in December.

"Kanopy had always been pretty fair about not charging us for duplicate titles, but it was incumbent upon us to ferret those out and bring them to their attention. As their collections shifted, this became harder. We are able to tell from our data that there are too many titles getting too few views, which was an additional waste of funds. I made the case to change to a mediated model," said Oling.

The change to a mediated model comes after the college not paying for the service, which according to Oling is normally paid for quarterly, since June. Spending for the app, which was budgeting at $12,000 in July, reached more than twice that by November.

Now, students can still sign up for the service, but they will only be able to view items that the library already has licensed until those titles' licenses run out. Professors must reach out to Oling for approval to license a film, and it's not guaranteed that the film can be licensed at any specific time.

Professor Taylor, Board of Study Coordinator of Cinema Studies, gave a glimpse as to what it was like teaching when students didn't have access to streaming platforms.

"In the mid-90s, when I first began teaching at Purchase, we would require students to see non-classroom films and even VHS tapes in individual carrels in the library. So much has changed since then, and having a wealth of titles available for instant viewing has been absolutely fantastic," said Taylor.

Taylor finds Kanopy's collection to be unique due to its volume, quality of films, and well curated collection. He said getting approval for films is disappointing because it will add another layer of complexity to course planning, but he agrees the unlimited model was unsustainable due to the cost. Taylor said the only equivalent to the service may be the recently launched Criterion Channel.

As for the library adding to its collection and purchasing new books, extremely limited purchases are being allowed and buying will begin again for fall, said Oling.



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