Friday, February 19, 2010

Online Videos (Legally!)

You already know about the Law Library’s popular Legal DVD collection, which contains current and classic films with legal themes. You probably also know that the Lilly Library at Duke houses an impressive film collection, with more than 14,000 DVDs! (All of these can be searched in the libraries’ online catalog.)

But sometimes the library is closed, or the movie you want is checked out to another borrower. We’d never advise anyone to seek out illegal video download sites, which can harm your computer with viruses and also put you on the wrong side of copyright infringement laws. We’re happy to say instead that there are plenty of legal sources for a movie fix, and you would be surprised what you can find on them.

You may know Hulu as the go-to site for television clips. But Hulu offers a wide selection of free (advertising-supported) movies as well. Note that the selection is constantly changing, dependent upon the whims of the copyright holders (we’re sad to report that perennial law school favorite The Paper Chase has been pulled from view after several months of availability). But there are certainly enough titles at any given time to entertain a picky viewer.

Netflix subscribers also have access to a vast video-streaming library. Like Hulu, the selection varies, but the title list is constantly growing. Access to the streaming videos comes with any subscription plan—even the 1-DVD-at-a-time option allows unlimited access to the Instant Collection, making the $8.99/month fee a bargain for avid movie-watchers.

If subscription fees don’t appeal to you, check out some free (and legal!) sites. Classic Cinema Online offers a wide variety of films from the early 20th century, including silent classics like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and an amazing array of short films and newsreels. FreeDocumentaries streams a variety of non-fiction films, including popular titles like Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me or The Corporation, a creative look at a business association’s status as a “legal person”.

The Duke University Libraries also subscribe to several film databases, which you can access remotely with a NetID and password. Films on Demand and
NC Live (PBS) Videos offer documentaries on various subjects, while the BBC Shakespeare Video Collection streams video from an ambitious adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays. Some familiar faces in these works, which ran on British public television from 1978-1985, include Alan Rickman (Romeo & Juliet), John Cleese (The Taming of the Shrew), and Helen Mirren (Cymbeline). Think Shakespeare is getting too far off-course for a law library blog? Tell that to the Cox Legal Fiction Collection on level 3, which includes more than 30 titles on the Bard and law.

Happy viewing!