Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Netflix Wants to Be Free

I’m going ignored “Banned” Books Week this year. The ALA has worn me down with their inanities, so you’ll just have to read whatever I’ve written in the past. Until the ALA is able to distinguish the “freedom to read” from, say, handing porn books to children, then their arguments can’t be taken seriously by intelligent people. If you read the ALA propaganda, it’s clear they can’t make that distinction, hence this intelligent person has decided to stop arguing with them. You can’t argue with unreasonable ideologues, whether they come from the ALA or or the Communist Party or the Tea Party.

So let’s get back to videos! There has been so much furor over that guest post on the Webtamer’s blog a couple of weeks ago, where a librarian seemed to believe her library’s limited budget for DVDs made it okay to use Netflix despite violating its terms of service. Why anyone pays attention to that blog I’ll never know?

Meredith Farkas obviously reads it, and didn’t like the hypocrisy she found. Oh, Meredith, I thought information was supposed to be free! Oh, and according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Netflix didn’t like it either. Whatever.

Far from criticizing librarians who are using Netflix and violating the terms of service, I’m here to celebrate them and offer them further suggestions for saving money while still supplying the library with videos.

First, we should all be thankful to have professionals bold enough to state publicly that they’re deliberately ignoring the licenses that come with subscription services! Take that, Netflix! And while you’re at it, Ebsco, Gale, Lexis, Elsevier, and the other hundreds of vendors libraries get subscription content from. We should all just download articles from all our vendors and send them to whomever wants them.  We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!

A lot of library budgets are under pressure these days. One might even say they’re starving for money. And even the blessed St. Thomas agreed that a starving family that takes food isn’t stealing. Thus, a library hungry for DVDs isn’t doing anything wrong by violating their contract with Netflix. After all, if this library didn’t deliberately ignore the terms of service, where would their poor patrons get DVDs? Nowhere, that’s where! And we can’t have that. The end justifies the means, after all.

However, using Netflix for libraries should just be the thin end of the wedge. If you really want to save some money, here are some tips.

  • Keep using Netflix.
  • Systematically order every DVD in its library in order of your priority.
  • Copy the digital file of each one. (And if you think copy protection can’t be bypassed, then you haven’t shopped around for current software.)
  • Load them all up on a server.
  • Let people download them!

Do the same thing with your CDs as well. Physical stuff just takes up too much space. Just be sure to use some sort of authentication, so that only your patrons can get the videos.  That’s what makes it okay! And what are the chances anyone from the movie or recording industry are going to be students at your university or live in your little community?

And there’s more! Do you Netflix-using librarians realize how many videos are already copied and available for free? They’re easy to get. Just download Bittorrent, set up one of your computers for peer-topeer file sharing, and voila! It’s not just movies, either. TV shows, audiobooks, ebooks, there’s no end to the great stuff that available on Bittorrent. Think of all the money you’ll save!

And it’s okay to share files, because they’re free, and you really need the files, and your budget’s small and all. So just do it! The original reasoning was superb, only this time don’t blog about it over at the Webtamer. I mean, it’s okay to do it, because you don’t have much money, and you sure need those videos, and if no one’s prosecuting you, then it must be okay. In fact, it’s definitely okay to do it as long as you don’t get caught, and the easiest way to not get caught is to keep quiet about it. Good luck!



  1. Bruce Campbell says:

    Time Warner just contacted me because I read this post.

  2. Just tell them you have an unsecured wireless connection and totally didn’t do it.

  3. AL, I know you were planning to sit out Banned Books Week…but I was directed to a YouTube video from ALA OIF, and I couldn’t resist challenging them.

    “How do you respond to the Annoyed Librarian’s arguments (she’s on Library Journal’s website)? She argues that the books aren’t really “banned” since they’re still widely available.”

    Here are the responses I got from OIF:
    “The briefest answer is this: public schools and public libraries are government agencies that operate pursuant to the First Amendment. Any official suppression of a book for the ideas it contains is unconstitutional censorship, a book ban.”

    “But also this: AL presumes that everyone has the money and agency necessary to obtain a book from other sources, and that multiple copies of the book are widely available. AL’s presumptions are patently untrue. Remove a book from a school or public library, and you have banned the book for those without the means of obtaining book; when the book is rare or out of print, you have banned the book for anyone who wants to read it. Either situation is censorship.”

  4. FreakyLib says:

    It is amazing to me that the Concordia College blogger justifies theft of service because there have been “no legal repercussions.” So stealing is fine, as long as you don’t get punished. Nice.

    It’s interesting that ALA has no division or roundtable devoted to copyright issues – which have become really important topics in an age where it is so easy to violate copyright law.

    As always, great post!

  5. I Like Books says:

    I checked several of my local library systems for some of the standard trumpet literature that all of the teachers and players use and recommend. You can’t even pretend to have made an effort in your music instructional material if you don’t have some of those titles. I figured if they were so widely used, I should find out why.

    None of the libraries had any of it. Not an Arban, not a Clark, not a Stamp, or anyone else.

    The failure to include such common and essential literature is obviously a case of censorship. The trumpet is apparently just a little too long and hard for some librarians’ comfort, and I, for one, am outraged.

    Or maybe they were using the budget and shelf space for newly released DVDs and Madonna’s porno book.

    (To any curious librarians out there: seriously, this is standard literature, and you don’t have it. I have to guess the situation is the same for other interests that I’m less aware of. Ask a musician what to get, not other librarians.)

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