The University Rules for Computer Use forbid use of University IT or network facilities for "commercial purposes without specific authorisation" and offering "commercial services through web pages" except with permission. The reason for these rules is that the University's computer and network facilities are subsidised from public funds on the understanding that they will be used for academic purposes: use for other purposes may bring these arrangements into question. The authorisation required will normally be given only for commercial activities that are being conducted by or on behalf of the University or its colleges.
It should be noted that these rules apply to all computers, including those owned by colleges or by individuals, that are connected to University networking facilities.
The rules are intended, inter alia, to bar advertising of non-University commercial services on University web pages.
Providing information about commercial organisations
Questions are sometimes raised about the degree to which information about commercial organisations may be placed on web pages, and here it is often necessary to apply value judgements. Clearly, many personal web pages will give details of members' interests and hobbies, and in some cases it is natural to supplement this with links to organisations active in the field, recommendations, details of where equipment may be obtained, etc.
There is no intention to prevent reasonable information of this sort being given. However, this must not be treated as licence to operate as a trader, or to sell services.
Acknowledging commercial sponsorship
A similar question that is raised is that of acknowledgement of commercial sponsorship, in particular in society web pages.
The guidelines that are used are these.
1. References to commercial companies are permissible, statements of sponsorship are permissible, logos and links are permissible, but advertisements (in the sense that a copywriter would mean) are not allowed.
2. It is very important to ensure that if a company's logo is to be used, permission has been given in writing. The fact that a company may offer sponsorship, or that they are being referred to favourably, does not mean that their corporate lawyers will accept their logo being displayed.
Obviously no guidelines can cover all circumstances, especially with the rapid pace of technological development in this area, and it is important to apply a criterion of "reasonableness" when considering what is an acceptable use of University (and Funding Council) resources.
Frequently asked questions
Can a logo/link cover most of a page?
This is unreasonable: a logo when used as a link is generally thought to be something like an icon, say about 1 cm across.
Can a frame be used in an page, which loads an advertisement from an outside site?
This is not acceptable, because, although the commercial material is actually held elsewhere, it would appear to be coming from the page.
Can a separate browser window be fired-up, containing material from the commercial organisation?
No. If people follow a link to a commercial site, and get the advertising, that's acceptable, but access to a University page must not cause an advertisement to come up automatically.
Can a society that generates funds by selling items (eg t-shirts), advertise these on its web page?
Yes, as long as the sales are primarily within the University, and the society is selling on its own behalf, not acting as an agent for an outside body.
Queries about these guidelines
Any query about these guidelines should be referred to the office of the CIO, IT Services, or to the Clerk to the Proctors.