Much depends on the film title. Unlike scholarly books and journals, films are generally not produced for the academic market. There are only a few established sales/distribution channels for academic institutions and libraries to purchase video content or license rights online streaming or viewing.

In addition, film producers these days are less inclined to produce DVDs, choosing instead to distribute via online retailers that only sell direct to individuals. For example, companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Vimeo do not sell subscriptions to institutions.

Films are usually distributed by geographic region, and in line with country specific laws governing the classification and distribution of films. In Singapore, we have the Films Act governing any sale or distribution of films.

For academic libraries, there are only a handful of established video streaming platforms. NTU Library is current using:

These platforms have an international outlook—they negotiate and supply videos to various countries around the world, including to Singapore. They have quite a good number of documentaries.

If the chosen film is available in either of these streaming video platforms with the corresponding geographical rights, i.e. available for Singapore market, NTU Library can purchase/subscribe after ensuring there is no issue with the film classification.

If the chosen film is not available in these platforms, which is often the case for most commercial or drama titles, there is only a small possibility that we may be able to get a streaming video license. The entire process includes:

  1. Searching for and contacting the rights owner or distributor, e.g. the Director, Producer, Film Production House, or distribution agents
  2. Liaising with the distributor on the possibilities of supplying to NTU a streaming video license, and negotiating for an acceptable pricing
  3. Processing the license (contracts, terms and conditions, etc.)
  4. Purchasing admin (purchase requests, approvals, etc.)
  5. Getting the video file, uploading and testing of the video

From start to end, the process could take around two to six months.

  • Typically it is difficult to ascertain the rights owner or distributor as the films distribution industry can be considered rather private and exclusive. Even when we manage to track them, communicating with them and getting them to consider supplying a specific streaming video license to the University is usually laborious. Such special arrangements usually translates into high costs for the license.

Because of the complexity, difficulties and high costs associated with streaming video licenses, NTU Library will only consider requests for streaming videos for teaching purposes. Only course instructors may make requests—see this webpage for more details.


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