Spotify only launched in October 2008 and until now had managed to escape the university’s ban on so-called peer-to-peer sharing networks. These networks allow connected computers to share data – such as music or films – quickly and easily. But they consume significantly more bandwidth than traditional downloads in which computers receive data from a central source.
Oxford University Computing Services (OCUS) added Spotify to its proscribed list of services last week, to the outrage of students who had come to rely on its vast, free archive of tracks.
The independent student newspaper Cherwell quoted students as saying the ban amounted to “discrimination against music lovers”. One unnamed music student claimed that the ban would hamper his studies. “I use it loads. It’s the most comprehensive collection of classical music in one place,” he said.
The ban covers computers on the university internet connection in halls of residence as well as those in communal buildings like libraries and study centres. It does not affect students in private houses, or those who have paid for their own mobile internet connections. The OCUS website also states that the internet phone service Skype and fantasy role playing game World of Warcraft can breach its ban on peer-to-peer technology, although the BBC iPlayer and 4oD are both allowed.
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. “I’m sure the students would like it if they could have Spotify back but they are getting a free service so they must accept some restrictions.”
Spotify attracted more than two million users in Britain within a year of launching. Users can either listen to music for free, with advert breaks between every few songs, or pay a monthly subscription to listen without adverts. Experts have warned that bandwidth-hungry services such as the iPlayer, YouTube and Spotify could lead to slower and more unreliable connections in future unless there is necessary investment in new high-speed networks.