The day the music survived

Start the streaming and crank up the volume: Oxford may soon allow music sharing on college networks.

Oxford University Computing Services is considering amending its  policy on peer-to-peer software to allow students to use the popular music streaming service Spotify, Stuart Lee, OUCS director, said. A decision could come by the end of this term.

Current IT policy prohibits the use of peer-to-peer software, but does not specifically ban Spotify, a legal peer-to-peer sharing service, Lee said.

In a reply to a Freedom of Information request, the University said there “is no central monitoring, auditing, or banning of such applications”.

Still, some individual colleges and academic departments have prevented students from accessing the service.

“OUCS is asking for the regulation to be changed and for colleges and academic departments to allow users to use such applications (as they are becoming more common) and for them to impose restrictions based on their internal network capacity,” Lee said.

The new regulations will be considered by University Council later this term.

Students at colleges such as St. John’s, Corpus Christi and Christ Church said they can currently access Spotify, while those at other colleges, such as Lincoln and Balliol, said they cannot.

Whether a change in regulations would lead to any direct impact on students’ ability to use Spotify remains uncertain.

College IT managers would retain the decision to restrict the use of peer-to-peer software if its use is judged to have a detrimental effect on the college network.

But one college administrator said that he was open to the possibility of allowing Spotify.

Mike White, Lincoln’s IT Officer, said: “The only reason that I maintain the block on Spotify is because of the University’s policy. Allowing it, of course, would be subject to its impact on the other parts of the network.”

The decision may turn on what data demands Spotify places on college and University networks. Peer-to-peer services are banned in part because they use large levels of bandwidth, potentially slowing other traffic.

While Spotify reportedly said earlier in the year that it was “sad to think of our student friends at Oxford University unable to listen to Spotify whilst on campus”, and that they were “talking to the university about how we can help them give the music back to their students”, these discussions appear to have been less than conclusive.

Andres Sehr, Spotify’s global community manager, said: “We discussed the situation with the University and provided technical information about how much data traffic Spotify uses in the hopes that an exception could be made in the policies.

“[The University] promised us to review the data and we hope that the information we provided them will allow Spotify to be made available to the students at Oxford again in the near future.”

The University said Spotify representatives told them they could not turn off the service’s peer-to-peer function but that their estimates suggested the service does not use much bandwidth in any case.