Advertising on Janet

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Version: 3

Issued:  December 2019

Reference: GEN-DOC-001

Author: A. Cormack

Last Reviewed Date: 10/12/2019

A number of queries about advertising on the network are referred to the Janet Service Desk every year. Some commercial activity on Janet is permitted, provided it complies with the policies set for the network by its funders. In particular section 14 of the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) states that Janet may not be used by a User Organisation or its Members for:

Creation or transmission of unsolicited bulk or marketing material to users of networked facilities or services, save where that material is embedded within, or is otherwise part of, a service to which the user or their User Organisation has chosen to subscribe.

The AUP may be found at: https://community.jisc.ac.uk/library/acceptable-use-policy

This factsheet explains why the restrictions on advertising on Janet exist, and provides details of the way in which this policy has been interpreted.

Why are there restrictions?

Restrictions have to exist because Janet is funded by public money for the specific purposes of research and education. If the network were to lose this special nature and carry a mixture of traffic there would be little justification for Government funding.

Another factor that has to be considered is Janet’s status as a private network. Private networks have certain advantages over public networks, in particular they are subject to fewer regulatory requirements, for example under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which allows the network operators to design and operate Janet to best suit its research and education role.

Overt commercial activity on Janet could threaten the status of the network and lead to a loss of these benefits.

What is permitted?

The AUP permits any lawful activity that is in furtherance of the aims and policies of the user organisation, provided that it does not contravene any of clauses 8 to 16. Permitted activities may be either not for profit or involve financial gain. Advertising can therefore only be permitted if it is not unsolicited and is in furtherance of the organisation’s aims.

In general, advertising must not be used in a way that creates additional traffic on the Janet network. The only exception to this rule is where advertising forms part of software or a service to which a Janet site has subscribed: e.g., when software is purchased online it is a common requirement that users receive information about updates and new products.

The following sections give some examples of advertising that may be permitted.

Acknowledging Sponsors

Many organisations and services with a connection to Janet obtain sponsorship from commercial companies. In these circumstances it is acceptable to display a small icon or logo relating to the sponsor on the Janet site's web pages. It is also acceptable to provide a link to the sponsor's web site and include a brief message acknowledging their support. In this instance the advertising is passive in that the user has to click on the link to access the sponsor's web site.

Advertising Services and Products

Connected sites can use Janet for commercial and marketing purposes relating to their own products and services. Some Janet sites have used their web pages to market courseware and teaching materials, or software packages developed by their staff and students. Many universities and colleges also advertise their conference facilities and the availability of student accommodation for rent during the holidays on Janet. In each case the activities are deemed to be acceptable under the AUP because they are "in furtherance of the missions of the user organisation".

Icons on Web Pages

Icons or logos relating to commercial companies are now seen on a number of Janet site web pages. This type of advertising is typically used for the following purposes:

  • careers services provide links to the web sites of commercial companies that offer graduate job opportunities;
  • some organisations promote services provided by commercial companies for students: e.g., a bookstore offering discounts;
  • business departments acknowledge collaborative ventures with commercial companies.

However, this type of advertising is only permitted where the user has to choose to click on the link to access the commercial web site.

Advertising Banners

Small advertising banners are permitted on Janet web sites, provided either:

  • both the banner and the link to the advertiser's site are stored locally on the web server of the organisation with the Janet connection, or
  • where an item is downloaded, the download does not compromise the activities of other Janet users.

It is not acceptable to link to advertising material stored on a commercial database that is pulled into Janet as a web page loads, unless an organisation has decided that it is in its interest to do so.

Advertising in Newsletters

The Janet Service Desk has received a number of enquiries about the publication of student news-sheets containing adverts on Janet web sites. In each case it was agreed that this was acceptable provided:

  • the advertising was passive, i.e. the user had to click on the links to access the commercial web sites
  • the news-sheet remained on the web
  • no attempt was made to send this information to mailing lists (this would be classed as unsolicited e-mail).

Advertising in E-Mail

Sending unsolicited marketing e-mails is prohibited both by law and by the AUP. As with websites, however, it may be permissible to include marketing of an organisation’s own products and services in e-mails sent for other purposes. This will only be allowed if the marketing is clearly subsidiary to the main purpose of the e-mail (making marketing content too prominent also increases the risk of an important mail being deleted either by the recipient or their anti-spam filter).

Those wishing to include marketing in e-mails are reminded that this is also subject to the UK ePrivacy Regulations and the General Data Protection Regulation. Apart from a small number of exceptions, direct marketing messages can only lawfully be sent to individuals who have actively consented to this. 

Further Information

This factsheet can only provide general guidelines about the type of advertising that is currently considered to be acceptable on Janet. If you require specific advice please contact the Janet Service Desk.