Oxford University Bans Spotify, Apparently Prefers Students To Get Music Secretly, Rather Than Legally

from the that-doesn't-seem-helpful dept

For years, the recording industry has pushed universities to block file sharing apps and promote legal alternatives. In the US, the industry even pushed legislation that would require universities to support legal music services. Apparently, the folks over in Oxford are going in the other direction. IT folks at the prestigious university have banned Spotify, one of the most well-known legal music services out there, claiming that any P2P technology is not allowed, and then also claiming that it's a bandwidth hog. Finally, when confronted about it, the University noted that the service "cannot be justified as educational." There are lots of things online that cannot necessarily be justified as educational, but are totally allowed.

Given the multiple explanations, you get the feeling this may have been an overreaction on the part of the University by someone unfamiliar with Spotify. I would doubt that the application is really that much of a bandwidth hog -- and even if it is, you would think that there are better ways to deal with it than an outright ban. Either way, it's not like it will actually stop students from using it or some other means of accessing music they want to hear -- it's just that they'll do so in more secretive ways.

Still, a bigger question is why such an esteemed university seems to think that all P2P applications are somehow bad. You would think that an educational institution would recognize that P2P is just a way of using the internet -- often in a more efficient manner -- and it's been used in all sorts of beneficial and educational settings for years.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Thomas (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 12:46pm

    Them payers are gonna ruin the music business!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    hahahahahhahahahhahahhaahhahahhahahah, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 12:59pm


    Wtf is wrong with them? hahahaha

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    dkp, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 1:20pm

    at the university I am at in the US they have bandwidth restrictions in the dorms and the wireless network monday through friday lifting them for the weekends so all the students know to do downloading on the weekends or go over to one of the open labs to download files. This works they keep the bandwidth under somewhat of a control and the students get pretty much unlimited access.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    wallow-T, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 1:24pm

    Spotify is probably a bandwidth hog on the UPLINK from Oxford. Universities tend to get hammered by peer-to-peer outgoing traffic because they have faster uplinks than the average home cable/DSL user; the "receivers" are steered towards the faster links in such mammoth quantities that the Uni link is overwhelmed.

    There are ways of dealing with this of course, but then you get students complaining that their uploads are throttled.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Sam, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    I'd rather not give too many details, but I work with one of the college IT departments and have always got the distinct impression that the p2p ban rubbish comes down from above OUCS (the computing service) and there's nothing they can do about it (certainly nobody in my department agrees with it). Upper management of the university is (understandably, I hope, in such an old university...) rather traditional.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Leo Martins (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:38pm

    DNA databases

    If I didn't know any better, I would say that people at Oxford aren't doing a lot of genomics recently: biotorrents, for instance, is a torrent service for sharing genomic datasets (such a dataset was published recently on Nature).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Richard (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:45pm


    Our Computing services people tried to switch off the ports that service this kind of stuff a year or two back - but were forced to turn them back on because of complaints from:......

    Senior management!

    They also like to listen to music at work....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Richard (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    Re: DNA databases

    The relevant departments will have had no trouble getting themselves exempted from this - although they will probably have had to fill out a form or two.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Andrew F (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:51pm


    Isn't iTunes technically P2P -- as in, you can stream music from your library to other computers on the same network? Or do they mean something else by P2P?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    :), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 3:32pm

    Protocol Discrimination.

    Protocol discrimination is not network management decision is a business decision.

    And that is why Net Neutrality started to be discussed and got serious in the U.S..

    Content providers saw the possible ramifications of such behavior and took action to rectify the situation the best way they know how and that is using legislation and to be frank I don't think there would be any other way, it goes against the nature of companies not to discriminate so there has to be a rule saying that.

    People remember comcast? that what kickstarted the whole thing.

    Don't put a rule saying you can't discriminate and people will discriminate never mind that one could easily shape the traffic based on volume of the traffic and not the protocol meaning there are agnostic ways to do it but people choose to discriminate services why?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Bengie, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 3:54pm


    Why don't they just throttle the protocols? Easy and free. I Linux has free firewall software that will not only look at the port but also data and heuristics of a data stream to identify which protocol to group it with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    :), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 5:07pm

    Re: HMmm..

    Throttling is still discriminating against a protocol or service is not traffic management and gives the network owner great leverage for future negotiations and you don't want that if you are a user, service provider or even content provider because that means they can discriminate blogger, skype, audio, video or any other thing they don't like for whatever reason, now if you are talking about flow of traffic then there is so much you can do against those things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Bengie, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 8:20pm

    Re: Re: HMmm..

    Traffic Shaping/Rate Limiting/Flow Management/Bandwidth Management/Traffic Management all seem to overlap dramatically in definition. All of them could correctly describe throttling, but some being "more" correct than others.

    Seems some are based on priorities, some on bandwidth caps, some on dropping packets, some on delaying packets. But they all seem to do mostly the same thing, prioritize and/or limit.

    In the case of a large Uni paying for data transfered, they may want to actually cut back on data used rather than just apply priorities.

    If I bought a 100+mbit line not because I need 100mbit all the time, but because *some times* I need it; I would be pissed to have a few users pegging the line 24/7 and costing me $$$.

    But really, the Uni can't use education as an excuse because they could easily prioritize lab/Faculty computers over dorms. They could also reduce priority on long running heavy data streams.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 11:47pm

    educational justification?

    How could they possibly justify college "sports" programs as educational? This whole issue is stupid and arrogant, from an administration with exactly those attributes. They know little or nothing of the technology, have predetermined the outcome and too arrogant to even try to comprehend factual arguments because it might alter the predetermined outcome. These are the drones that run the school.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Jake, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 2:13am

    It adds up on the downlink as well, for that matter. I don't know what Spotify's bitrate is like, but I had to stop using Last.FM with mobile broadband because it was averaging 50MB an hour, and they only stream at a relatively low 128kb/s.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    xenomancer (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 4:48am

    Oxford is not the only one...

    The University of Florida actively blocks P2P applications and protocol use on its residence network. Its appalling that this is done while also claiming its a benefit to the students on the network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Karl, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 4:47pm


    I think it's possible that the (conservative and technologically ignorant) upper management don't know what to do and just want to cover all their bases.

    They don't know enough to tell when P2P users are infringing on copyrights, fear being sued, so just ban it outright.

    If you've ever read any cease-and-desist letters from ISP's (you know, when someone catches you downloading content and threatens your ISP), they tell you to make sure you don't have the offending file, and also to uninstall ANY P2P software on your computer. You know, "just to be safe."

    Probably this case is something along those same lines. They don't know that Spotify is legal, so they block it, "just to be safe."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    DigThatFunk (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 9:40pm


    It seems "tradition" tends to be often confused with "ignorance." First of all, how can you say music is "not educational?" I swear I took a class called "Music history" or some such. Just because it's contemporary(I know that for you Old Farts at good ol' Oxford U, new is scary and change is baaaad!), does not mean that it is not educational; just as any art, really, can be justified to be. Open your minds, you old, wrinkly bastards. As the whole world should freaking know by now, technology won't be stopped. You guys are old and scared of change, whereas those you're trying to stop are willing to drop whatever service you get in the way of, and find something newer(and usually, harder to stop). Good luck with that, it's worked wonders so far for authorities wishing to stop progress. Right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Dave B, Jan 26th, 2010 @ 4:46am

    P2P is against OUCS policy...

    ...so the default is all P2P is banned, not just Spotify.

    OUCS are aware of the potential bandwidth-saving benefits of P2P, but they'll only change policy if they can prove that those benefits do exist within their network.

    (I'm an IT guy at the University, but not in OUCS.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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