Q. A friend told me about a great streaming service called Kanopy that has lots of interesting movies and it’s free! Have you heard of it? Is it legal and how do you get it for free if it’s legal? — Heidi, Prince Frederick, Maryland.  

Heidi, Kanopy is not only great and free. It’s also legal and subsidized by your tax dollars! Let me explain.

The streaming service offers thousands of films, documentaries and educational videos for free, such as Lady Bird, Logan Lucky, Moonlight, Almost Famous, Once Upon a Time In the West, Days of Heaven, Election, Babel, Chinatown and Zodiac. The list also includes many hard-to-find titles such as American Dharma, the brilliant Errol Morris documentary on conservative activist Steve Bannon, among other interesting movies and docs.

As a Kanopy user, I am constantly amazed at how many interesting titles I come across when doing a random search. (Like Netflix and other streamers, Kanopy offers suggestions based on your past choices.) And the picture quality is just as good as the quality of the lineup.

“Kanopy is the best video streaming service for quality, thoughtful entertainment. Find movies, documentaries, foreign films, classic cinema, independent films and educational videos that inspire, enrich and entertain,” the service says at its site..

But what’s best about Kanopy is that it’s available for free if you have a library card or you are a university student or professor. (Note: Not all public libraries participate in Kanopy. You can check here to see if your neighborhood library does, and here if your university does.) You sign up by inserting your library’s card number or your university login information.

The libraries and universities cover the expenses associated with offering the service for free, which is why some limit your views to eight during a calendar month; they want to keep the costs from running amok. (This is also why some libraries don’t participate at all.) That may sound like a lot, but I seem to hit my quota all too quickly each month.

Kanopy is only available to library card holders and university students and professors. You can’t use it for free, or subscribe to it, without being one or the other.

I would strongly recommend giving it a try, assuming a nearby library is on board. You definitely won’t regret it. You can watch Kanopy here on computers and mobile devices, and via the Kanopy app on streaming devices such as Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV.

Heidi, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann