Stanford curbs students' Napster use

Citing bandwidth issues, Stanford becomes the latest university to limit access to the music file-swapping service.

2 min read
Citing bandwidth issues, Stanford University has become the latest college to limit access to music file-swapping service Napster.

The Bay Area school has implemented a policy that gives academic and research traffic higher priority than Internet use deemed to be for entertainment purposes, including Napster, based in nearby Redwood City, Calif. What this means for students is fast Internet access on some sites and slower service on others.

"They'll probably be able to use (Napster) anytime they want to use it, it will just be slow," said Jay Kohn, Stanford's assistant director of networking. "If they use it during non-peak hours, they'll have a better chance of fast service."

The move is an about-face for the university, which last September rejected a request by heavy-metal band Metallica to ban Napster. At the time, Stanford lawyers said in a statement that "in the absence of any specific legal or factual basis for your demand, Stanford declines to limit access to Napster."

Not all universities took the same stance. Some schools have banned Napster from their campuses for bandwidth and legal issues, including Yale University, Oregon State University and Northwestern University.

Stanford's system will distinguish between various types of traffic using a PacketShaper by Cupertino, Calif.-based Packeteer. The PacketShaper can identity packets of information, marking Napster, for example, as an entertainment packet and the Library of Congress as a general Web packet, thus giving the latter site higher priority.

"If two packets are fighting it out to get off campus, the Napster packet will go second and the other packet will go first," Kohn said.

The limitations at Stanford came as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sent a preliminary injunction against Napster back to a district court with instructions for creating a new injunction. The new injunction should require Napster to block access to copyrighted works, the appellate court wrote.