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Watching Movies on Netflix and Copyright Issues

   August 11th, 2011

Pull quote from WBUR storyOn my drive to work this morning, I heard a story on the radio on how people are upset about the holes in Netflix's collection.

I've been hearing this same thing from friends, that more and more often lately the movies they want are just not available through Netflix - either as a DVD or streaming. The story attributes this to the changing contracts concerning entertainment producers and online delivery, and a related story also covered broadband issues.

The main thrust of the story seemed to be just informational - sort of, "this is happening, get used to it."

Sadly, they didn't mention public libraries as a resource for DVDs - we have lots of movies and shows not legally available to borrow elsewhere. I left a quick comment on their story:

As a public librarian, I always encourage people to check out their local library's DVD collection. If they don't have what you want, ask your librarian to order it!

I tried not to be glib, but happily, the holes in a library's collection are usually* due just to selection oversights (of which I am guilty) - which is easily remedied by being responsive patron requests.

At least, for now. Copyright battles are raging, as media companies try every tact they can to protect their revenue streams - including changing existing laws, which could affect first sale doctrine and fair use rights.

I don't have any direct links to these issues, but I would encourage everyone to pay attention to the issues the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is tracking, especially those dealing with Intellectual Property. When a copyright-related bill is making its way through Congress, the EFF details what effects it will have, and what action can be taken to protect access to information.

Another great copyright resource to follow is the Copyfight blog - it's not strictly library issues, but it is all about copyright.

Funny how a short story on the radio can have an impact on your entire day.


*In addition to the movies we missed purchasing, another source of holes in the collection is always theft.

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One Response to “Watching Movies on Netflix and Copyright Issues”

  1. ash966 Says:

    As a librarian and fan of anime, kung fu movies, and pre-Code Hollywood, I’ve been aware of complex rights issues even before streaming made it even more exciting. The library is a great resource, but we can’t get everything:

    1. DVDs have been around long enough to go out of print. Also, some DVD companies (Like ADV and Geneon for anime) go out of business and rights to the material doesn’t get picked up. Libraries can’t pay collectible prices, and may be reluctant to go with a 3rd party seller and risk getting a scratched-up DVD.

    2. Some movies have still never made it to DVD (or even VHS) in the US. TCM used to advertise their selection of never-released titles and Fox Movie Channel has some too. Patrons get annoyed when they watch half a movie and find out it’s not on DVD. Libraries also cannot buy DVDs with a different region code from the US,even if there is not a US version, for legal reasons:


    I don’t mean to be a downer, ILL is a wonderful thing which has allowed me to see some great movies and my library also gets some really good things, patrons just have a poor understanding of these issues and understandably so. I won’t even get into music rights and how that can delay a DVD!