TV Answer Man, my friend says he watches movies on Kanopy. Not sure of the spelling but he says it has great movies and it’s free. Can you explain what this is and how to use it? Is it a legal site? — Crystal, Lusby, Maryland. 

What is Kanopy?

Kanopy is great and free. It’s also legal and subsidized by your tax dollars! Let me explain.

The streaming service offers thousands of films, TV series, documentaries and educational videos for free, such as Parasite, The Worst Person In the World, Silence, Lady Bird, Judy, Memento, The Lighthouse, Chinatown, The Elephant Man, Boyhood…the list just goes on and on and they include many hard-to-find titles considered too quirky for some mainstream sites.

This month’s new title list includes Martin Scorsese’s Silence, The Reader, Blue Valentine, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Limelight…you better stop me now. There are so many great titles here that I could name them for hours.

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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.

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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.

And did I tell you that it’s free? It’s free!

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— Phillip Swann