The Columbia University Libraries collect film in all genres and in multiple formats including streaming video. The collections support the research and curricular needs of our faculty and students. This guide includes links to the extensive collection of streaming video collections and databases licensed or purchased by the libraries.
Butler Media Research Collection DVDs circulate for one week.
DVDs from the Butler Media Research Collection are available for loan from the Butler Library Circulation Desk.
CUL subscribes to an exceptional collection of streaming video databases hosting feature films, documentaries, and recorded performances. Titles accessed through these sources can be individually linked through Course Reserves or directly from a Canvas course site. Students can alternatively be directed to the links from this research guide.
Course Reserves will include streaming versions of full-length films at the request of faculty in support of their course screening needs if a streaming license for educational use is available. Not all films have educational license even if available through personal streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others (see the section of this guide "Personal Streaming Services." Film requests should include: film title, director, release date, and distributor, if known. Streaming video requests can take several days or up to a few weeks to process and activate. Submit a request for course reserves through this form.
Do not submit orders for Kanopy or Swank Digital Campus titles through their online catalog -- all orders must be submitted through Course Reserves.
There are numerous models for the acquisition of a streaming license by educational institutions primarily for feature films, documentaries, and recorded performance. Streaming video is currently acquired by the Columbia University Libraries as follows: licensing or purchase of curated database content, license or purchase of individual titles for course reserves, and licensing of core collection titles, primarily feature films. Individual films are licensed for either a one-year, three-year, or a five-year period. The library will acquire a perpetual license if available.
CUL currently provides access to thousands of streaming video titles through curated collections.
Many of our streaming video titles are not accessible through our online catalog, CLIO. If streaming video access is not found through a CLIO search, review and search the list of collections available as listed in the research guide.
For Kanopy and Swank Digital Campus, it is recommended to search both the Columbia University Libraries and Barnard College portals as listed from the guide. These providers have not yet unified our search access even though licensing for titles by either institution is available to all Columbia and Barnard affiliates.
The guide includes links to streaming video content currently licensed through a number of providers. CUL will respond to any request for streaming video by faculty for course reserves. This involves acquiring educational streaming license for individual films. Alexander Street Press, Kanopy, and Swank Digital Campus maintain large catalogs of films available for educational license. Faculty can browse the entire catalogs for Alexander Street Press, Kanopy, and Swank Digital Campus for films available to license. Requests for films not available from these providers will be processed depending on licensing availability either through individual distributors, filmmakers, or other platforms.
A significant percentage of films currently held in DVD format in the Butler Media Research Collection are not available for educational streaming license. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act codified in part in 17 U.S.C. § 1201 "makes it unlawful to circumvent technological measures used to prevent unauthorized access to copyright works, including copyrighted books, movies, video games, and computer software." This current copyright ruling prevents DVD to streaming if the DVD has a technological protection measure (TPM) on it. Breaking or circumventing the TPM is a violation of copyright. For additional information, see Section 1201 Exemptions to Prohibition Against Circumvention of Technological Measures Protecting Copyrighted Works and a related listing of Frequently Asked Questions.
The Columbia University Copyright Office provides extensive information for faculty on fair use in the context of teaching and learning.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Criterion Channel, and other streaming video platforms do not offer educational licenses for feature films, documentaries, or their original content. They are limited to personal accounts and not intended for classroom screenings. Netflix offers a limited number of documentaries and programs for one-time educational use in the classroom. The list of titles can be found on the Netflix website.
Screening a film through Zoom for synchronous classroom instruction is not highly recommended since the picture quality is diminished. Scheduling a class screening is a challenge. Here are two suggestions for class screenings for remote teaching. Require students to view the required films before the class session and prepare the class session for lecture and discussion. A second model suggests that the class schedules a break for all students to watch the required film individually and simultaneously return to the Zoom session for the class lecture and discussion. Note that our streaming video delivery can accommodate numerous simultaneous screenings.
Students studying abroad can access our licensed content through the university authentication system. Access to personal streaming services (Netflix, VUDU, etc.) may vary by country and may require a VPN.