Several people have written about a new Bell commercial that is running during the Olympics promoting its expandable PVR. The PVR includes an option that allows users to transfer recorded programs to an external hard drive for archiving purposes. The commercial notes the benefits of "unlimited" disk space since users don't have to delete programs. These kinds of innovations – along with the network-based PVR that a U.S. court ruled last week is compliant with fair use laws – is precisely the kind of innovation that the law should be supporting.
But consider how Bill C-61 treats these products. Bell's promotion of archiving television programs is plainly incompatible with the bill's time shifting provisions that exclude archiving. In other words, Bell is promoting the benefits of a new PVR at the same time as it knows that the government has introduced a bill that does not permit Canadians to legally use the features. The bill does the same thing to the network-based PVR, which is legal in the U.S., but illegal under Bill C-61. Industry Minister Jim Prentice has promoted the time shifting provision as a great new benefit for Canadians, but the reality is that the approach is overly complex and restrictive. If Bell is going to promote these products, then it should also speak out on C-61 to ensure that the law is compatible with its claims.