Oxford University anti-peer-to-peer policy hits legal music service Spotify

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The University of Oxford is preventing students from accessing the legal, peer-to-peer online music service Spotify. Officials in the university’s Computer Services department (OUCS) say too much of the network’s bandwidth is taken up by people using such services, slowing down the network for others.

Spotify, which has more than 2.7 million users in the UK, allows users to listen to music stored on other users’ computers over the internet, either for free with adverts, or without adverts for a monthly fee. While the university allows students to use its network for free for academic purposes, it places restrictions on peer-to-peer sites, where data is shared between many connected computers rather than being downloaded from a central source, as these require more bandwidth.

Students were said to be unhappy with the move. One said that she was “shocked” at the ban, another called it “discrimination against music lovers”, and another said that he could “see nothing wrong” with students using Spotify, as “it’s not as if every single person is on it every single hour of the day.” There were reports, however, that the ban had inconsistencies, with students at some colleges still able to connect to the service.

A university spokeswoman said: “The university provides free internet access for students because it’s an educational resource. If they want to use it recreationally as well that’s no problem unless it uses so much bandwidth that it slows the network down.” OUCS added, “Bandwidth that seems insignificant for one user will soon add up when scaled up to the many thousands of users connected to Oxford University’s networks. It is one thing attempting to justify a network upgrade on the basis of a genuine academic requirement, such as the petabytes of data expected from CERN when their latest collider comes online.”

In response, Spotify said: “We’re sad to think of our student friends at Oxford University unable to listen to Spotify whilst on campus. We’re talking to the university about how we can help them give the music back to their students.”

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