What Is the Kanopy Streaming Service?

Watch free movies online every month

Kanopy is a streaming video service available from many libraries that offers a well-curated collection of films that educate, inspire, and engage viewers. You’ll need an active account with a public or university library that offers Kanopy in order to use the service.

What Films Does Kanopy Offer?

Kanopy offers a searchable catalog of more than 30,000 films, with an especially strong selection of independent films, documentaries, and thought-provoking entertainment. The offerings include nearly 400 titles from Janus Films (The Criterion Collection), as well as titles from A24, an independent film company known for titles such as “Moonlight”, “The Florida Project”, and “Ex Machina”. Explore the Kanopy catalog at https://www.kanopy.com/catalog/.

Screenshot of signed-in Kanopy account, browsing on the Independent Cinema section (with a "801 videos" indicated in the upper right)

Kanopy Kids provides a variety of classic stories intended for children, such as “Curious George” and “Where the Wild Things Are”, along with access to many educational shows.

The Kanopy website groups the catalog into twelve major subjects at https://www.kanopy.com/subjects: Movies, documentaries, the arts, business, education, global studies & languages, health, media & communication, sciences, social sciences, instructional films and lessons, and staff picks.

Does My Library Offer Kanopy?

Open a web browser to https://www.kanopy.com/wayf, then enter the name of your public or university library in the search box. (The “wayf” at the end of that link is an acronym of the phrase “where are you from?”.)

Screenshot of Kanopy.com library search page, that shows a search for "University of Central" with several "suggested" libraries listed, along with a couple "other" libraries listed

Look through the list of search results for the name of your library. If your library offers Kanopy, the system will display your library’s name in the “Suggested” section of the results. Select your library and then follow the on-screen instructions to link your library account to Kanopy.

If your library doesn’t offer Kanopy, the system will list your library in the “Other” section. When you select the name of a library that doesn’t yet offer Kanopy, the system provides a form that you may fill out. The intent of this form is to notify both Kanopy and your library system that you are interested in access to the Kanopy service.

How Do I Sign up for Kanopy?

Open a web browser to https://kanopy.com/user/register. You can create a Kanopy account linked to an existing Facebook or Google account. Alternatively, you may fill in your first name, last name, email address, and a new password to sign up for a new Kanopy account. By signing up, you’re also indicating that you are at least 13 years old and agree to Kanopy’s terms of service and privacy policy.

Screenshot of Kanopy.com registration page; shows Facebook and Google account sign-in options, along with first name, last name, email address, and password fields, and a "Sign up" button

Once you have created your Kanopy account, you may then connect libraries to your Kanopy account. You can connect multiple libraries to a single Kanopy account. For example, a person who has library access at both CUNY York College and the New York Public Library could connect both accounts to their account, since both library systems offer Kanopy.

What Devices Can I Use to Watch Kanopy?

Kanopy works in most desktop web browsers, including recent versions of Chrome, Safari, Edge (on Windows 10 or more recent), and Firefox. You can also install and watch Kanopy with an Apple TV, Chromecast, or Roku. The company also offers mobile apps. Download Kanopy for Android, for iOS, or for Amazon Fire tablets.

Your device must be connected to an active internet connection to view films from Kanopy. This is strictly a streaming service, with no downloadable or offline options offered.

How Often Can I Watch Films on Kanopy?

Many libraries limit the number of films you can watch on Kanopy per month. For example, some libraries allow each cardholder up to 5 films per month. Once you play five seconds of a film, that counts toward your total. From the time you start watching a film, you have 72 hours to view the selected film as many times as you wish.

If you have linked more than one library account to Kanopy, you can switch between accounts as needed. For example, if you use all of your allowed views associated with one library account, you may switch to the account of another library account you have connected to Kanopy.

Are Films on Kanopy Accessible?

All films on Kanopy come with closed captions and transcripts, and also may be accessed by people who use screen readers.

Why Do I Have to Request Access From My University to Watch a Video on Kanopy?

Kanopy offers two different fee structures, “cost-per-play for public libraries and patron-driven acquisition for universities,” according to the service’s website. That means a public library pays a small fee for every video viewed, which is why most public libraries place a limit on the number of films each cardholder may watch each month.

However, universities may be charged as much as $150 per title per year after the third time any student or faculty member views a video. As demand for watching Kanopy films increases at universities, costs may increase beyond what library budgets can afford. Therefore, some universities libraries have moved to manage costs by requiring potential viewers to requests titles before allowing access. Contact your university librarian to learn how your university manages access to Kanopy.

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