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Streaming Video: Streaming For Instructors

Streaming Films

The WSU Libraries can purchase streaming media for course use. In some cases, a streaming license can be acquired through one of the streaming distributors we work with. In other cases,  the WSU Libraries may need to identify the rights holder for an individual film and determine if permission for streaming can be granted or if a license is available for purchase. Please note that streaming licenses for feature films, and films that have never had a US release can be costly, if available at all.

Another option for instructors is to place a physical copy of the film (DVD) on reserve for students to watch either in the libraries on a viewing station, or on their own. If this is an option for your film, please use the Course Reserves Request form to place the item on reserve.

Some things to consider regarding streaming licenses:

  • It may be difficult to identify a rights holder if the film did not have a US release, and in some cases the cost for streaming rights may be prohibitive. If you want to stream a film for class use, please contact your liaison librarian to investigate whether the film is licensed for streaming and can be made available.
  • Licensing terms vary, and depending on the anticipated time-frame needed for access to the film, perpetual streaming licenses and longer licensing terms might be more cost-effective than year-by-year terms. Licensing terms are usually listed on the film distributor's website and can vary by title.

If the film you need is for a Global Campus course, your Global Campus elearning consultant may also be able to help you investigate licensing options and in some cases, alternatives.


Is the film I want to include in my course available for streaming?

While some streaming licenses are easy to investigate, others require further research to identify the rights holder, licensing, and possible streaming options. One service that can be used to investigate whether or not a film is licensed for streaming is This service will show you both streaming, digital purchase, and digital rental options, when available. You can also sign up for an account in order to receive an alert if a particular film becomes licensed for streaming in the future.

The WSU Libraries work with several documentary film distributors to acquire streaming rights for titles that instructors use in WSU courses. Variation from distributor-to-distributor in regards to licensing often requires streaming rights to be investigated on a case-by-case basis. If you wish to stream a film for a class, please contact your liaison librarian to investigate licensing options.

Academic distributors include, among others:


Subscription Streaming

Several companies provide access to content through subscriptions. In the cases below, the student would have to sign-up for a monthly subscription to the streaming provider, and would have to cancel the subscription once they are no longer needing to access the content. Some providers offer a free trial month, however the student would have to remember to cancel their subscription at the end of the trial in order not to incur a charge.

Rental Streaming Options

In cases where an institutional streaming license is not available, or is cost-prohibitive, instructors may want to explore rental options available through the providers listed below. Many of these options allow the student to "rent" the title for streaming, with viewing windows between 24 and 48 hours.


Streaming Feature Films

Swank Digital Campus is one of the few distributors that license feature films for academic environments. Institutional streaming licenses for feature films are often cost prohibitive. Some of the issues that complicate access to feature films include:

  • Fewer streaming platforms for feature films: While there are a wide variety of streaming documentary platforms available, Swank Digital Campus is still the major platform for streaming most feature films.
  • Restrictive licenses: Unlike purchasing a DVD that has a fixed price that is paid only once, feature film licenses have to be renewed every year which has the same financial impact as re-buying the same DVD every semester.
  • A highly competitive commercial film industry: Distributors don't always want to make their films available to third-party providers like Swank. That means that both Swank and Kanopy, while providing films from a fairly large number of distributors, still are not able to provide every title we might want and may lose the rights to titles when distribution agreements expire. 
  • Streaming foreign-language feature films can be particularly complicated, particularly if the films has never had a US release.  In such cases, no US-based distributor can make it available for streaming.
  • Concern over copyright and piracy:  Industry concerns complicate access and can contribute to a reluctance to provide streaming licenses to academic institutions.


Freely Available Documentaries

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us