Notes & Updates on Kanopy

Yes, things have definitely changed with Kanopy. For readers unfamiliar, Kanopy is a platform to access an incredible wealth of streaming film from documentaries to an international selection of classic cinema. Unlike Netflix and its cohort of streaming content providers which only license to the individual, Kanopy’s contracts with the copyright holders for films in their catalog are specifically designed for academic libraries and make it possible for the library to pay one fee per title that permits access for the entire Tulane community.
Recently, we discovered that Kanopy failed to communicate important budgeting and licensing information to us. This failure on their part, unfortunately, lead to serious problems as we approached the end of the academic and fiscal year. We are working with Kanopy to resolve these issues, however, due to their contract obligations with film rights holders, Kanopy had to change the interface that we have all become accustomed to. Where we used to have unrestricted access to Kanopy’s catalog via a purchasing model known as Patron-Driven Acquisitions (PDA), they have had to move us to a Moderated PDA purchasing model. There’s a longer description of PDA and moderated PDA below for the curious reader, but this essentially means that we now only have full access to films the library already purchased a 1-year streaming license to based on the film having been viewed four times while we had PDA access. Going forward, titles that have not already been licensed by the library are now searchable in the Kanopy catalog but users would have to complete the request form to prompt the library to purchase a streaming license for the required film. We recognize that the timing of this was incredibly inconvenient and we’re doing everything we can to minimize the disruption.

While it is more convenient, open PDA is messy. As libraries are discovering, demand for streaming film is always far greater than library budgets can sustain. Indeed, colleagues at libraries across the country reported also finding their PDA budget depleted before the academic year ended. This leads to unlicensed content suddenly being locked down. It also leaves us unprepared and unable to connect with the faculty member or researcher relying on a film before that film’s access license expires, meaning we may lose access to a title at a critical moment for a student or researcher.

Since we first began our relationship with Kanopy two years ago, they have introduced a mediated PDA system that addresses many of these issues. With the mediated PDA program, we will be able to see who needs access to a film and contact them within a few weeks of the license expiration date to see if they still need access to the film. If so, then we will renew the license for another year; if not then we will let that license expire and put that money towards a new title being used for teaching, learning, or research. This provides us with a little more flexibility in meeting the needs of the Tulane community and ensures access is preserved for those who need it.
Kanopy’s PDA access model
For Kanopy, patron-driven acquisition (PDA) means we set aside a pre-determined amount of funds (similar to a deposit) for purchasing 1-year streaming licenses for titles in the Kanopy catalog (typically $120 per title). We identified which subject collections we wanted to make available to Tulane patrons (currently all of them), and Kanopy then provided access to all titles within those collections. When a single title was viewed for the 4th time, a license purchase was triggered. When the purchase was triggered, the cost of the 1-year license was withdrawn from that deposit sum set aside at the beginning of the year.  When the fund is depleted, we retain viewing access to all the triggered titles for the duration of their license but, unfortunately, lose immediate access to everything else. This is the model we had been on.
Kanopy’s mediated PDA access model
In this model, patrons may see all the titles in the catalog. When they click on a title not already licensed by the library, they receive a message indicating the we don’t yet have access to this title but are provided with a form to place a purchase request. These requests are routed to the Head of Media Services who then follows established Howard-Tilton Memorial Library purchasing practices.
When we first began our relationship with Kanopy, regular PDA was the only option. After many libraries ran into the same problem we are now having, Kanopy made moderated PDA model an option. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models that are under constant debate within the library community. What we are discovering is that, while the advantages and disadvantages PDA purchase models may be the same for ebooks and streaming media content, they appear to be amplified with streaming film. It’s an interesting question that the broader library media community is still grappling with.
About those licenses
While Kanopy is different from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and the like, they do share one similarity – they only license content, they do not sell content. When we purchase a license from Kanopy or any other streaming video provider, we are essentially leasing the content, but do not own the content. Licenses permit access for a defined period of time, in the case Kanopy, we purchase primarily only 1-year licenses as this appears to provide the greatest cost-benefit. Our licenses with Kanopy permit individual viewing from on or off-campus, course-related screenings, and even campus screenings to Tulane students, faculty, and staff.