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Netflix for free? Kanopy – You just need a library card

An awful lot like Netflix, but completely free – and completely legal. There must be a catch.

In 2008, Olivia Humphrey started Kanopy from her boyfriend’s spare room in Perth. A decade on, the free streaming service is based in Silicon Valley – and now it’s made its way back home and your lounge room is next.

Humphrey doesn’t like to say Kanopy is a ‘free Netflix’, because there are key differences. And in 2008, it was nothing like Netflix at all.

It began life in the world’s pre-streaming days, with the sole mission of helping students to learn through film. So it sold DVDs direct to the libraries of Australian universities.

“We knew students loved learning through film and we wanted to make it easy for libraries to find and acquire the films,” said Humphrey, the now 41-year-old Sydney native.

A few years on, the wonderful world of internet streaming began, opening up new markets for Kanopy in North America and the UK. Kanopy now streams almost 30,000 premium title films to more than 3,000 uni campuses around the world, including the most prestigious – we’re talking Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton, Yale and Berkley.

And whether you’re among the Ivy League or not, you’re next.

That’s because Kanopy’s next move was into public libraries – the 8 million members of the New York Public Library alone have access to the streaming service.

And next it could be you watching hot titles like The Red Pill, I Am Not Your Negro, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Godfather – simply by dusting off that old library membership card.

The latest Aussie public libraries to join the Kanopy revolution include the six in Melbourne, and New South Wales and Queensland are next. But they’re both following hot on the heels of libraries in Western Australia that are already on board.

The idea is that instead of numbing your mind with Transformers, you’re learning something about the brilliance of Stephen Hawking by watching The Theory of Everything. You get the picture. Docos, indie and arthouse films get the full treatment, but there really is something for everyone for a Friday night with microwave popcorn.

Kanopy is legitimately ‘free’ for anyone with a membership to a participating library – so you can imagine how excited the libraries are. The business model means libraries pay more depending on how many of their members are tuning in – so some will limit consumption to a certain number of titles per month.

But the small filmmakers are particularly happy, as Kanopy pays them 50% of everything they make.

The happiest of all, however, will be you with your microwave popcorn – as long as you dust off that old library card pretty smartly.

To watch, select your library here

(Just enter in your university, college or library)

About the author

Andrew Maitland

Andrew Maitland

Andrew is a professional journalist, writer and copywriter with close to two decades of experience. He has thousands of published works and is a head contributor for Strataville.

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