For some time now, academic librarians have been resorting to Netflix to plug shortages in their media holdings. In fact, they have been thoroughly above-board about it; even the distinguished journal Library Trends ran an article about “Netflix in an Academic Library” last winter; author Ciara Healy wrote in the abstract that “Netflix turned out to be an excellent, cost-effective solution.” The other week, an acquisitions librarian at Concordia College in New York blogged about the blessing of her institution’s double eight-disc-at-a-time subscription, which she wrote saved her library $3,000. Though one commenter wondered “how you got this past legal for your university,” she responded that there had been “no legal repercussions.”
Whoops. Turns out Netflix isn’t actually cool with libraries using the service and doesn’t want early adopting librarians to be encouraging others to do so. Netflix doesn’t offer institutional subscriptions and expects its services to be limited to personal consumption. “We just don’t want to be pursuing libraries,” Netflix’s vice president of corporate communications Steve Swasey told the Chronicle of Higher Education recently. “We appreciate libraries and we value them, but we expect that they follow the terms of agreement,” he said, adding that Netflix “frowns upon” the liberties taken by librarians.
So on one side we have librarians saying they are using the service, and don’t expect legal repercussions; and on the other side we have Netflix saying they know libraries are using the service, and won’t be suing. Maybe, then, the best course of action would have been for both sides to just follow the rule normally observed in libraries: Shhhhh!