Bell’s Expandable PVR and C-61

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.


  1. Buzz Hargrove says:

    Locked-Down Hardware
    I would never buy one of these PVRs, it has to be the worst example of ‘owning’ something which you actually have no rights to. I’ve had one free for several months, and now they have finally allowed external hard drives via USB (after almost a a year), but with so many restrictions its not funny. As soon as you connect the EHD, the PVR insists on formatting the drive, and installing its own software. If you try to plug it into your computer, the newly embedded software will format the drive again, thus deleting all your recordings, which were DRM’ed anyway. Same if you try to move to another PVR, a warning that the EHD is setup for use with a different PVR, and then another forced format.

    Bell also spoke about enabling the LAN port that is in the unit, no action there so far.

    Why would I buy a piece of hardware that I have no control over, cannot legally alter in any way, and has features that can be promised but never delivered, or removed at any time by Bell with the next firmware upgrade, which you cannot decline? Very frustrating.

  2. PoliceState 4U says:

    Not illegal to offer, just illegal to us
    Bell can offer these units because there’s nothing that prohibits them from doing so, even if C-61 passes as-is. Bell’s customers will, however, become criminals if they use them as intended.

    It’s just like guns – not illegal to sell or possess, but illegal to use in the commission of a crime. Or maybe simple possession of a DVR/PVR will become proof of intent under the application of C-61. If they do that then they will have to also define anyone who owns a computer and a copy of any programming language as ‘having intent’ too. You never know when somebody might archive a tv program using code they wrote themselves, so best lock them up first.

    So using Bell’s DVR/PVR they’ll prosecute you for at least three offenses – copyright infringement, illegal archiving, and use of anti-archiving ‘tools’ — and there you have it, 3 ‘strikes’ under what will sure to follow in a Conservative “get tough on crime” bill. You’ll get a life sentence as a ‘habitual’ criminal for keeping copies of Sesame Street for your kids to watch in the minivan as you’re stuck in a Highway 400 traffic jam on a Friday on the way to the cottage as the police stop vehicles looking for contraband DVD’s.

    Maybe the cops will even raid all the multi-million dollar cottages on Lake Muskoka and Lake Joseph looking for people who infringe during the week by using the timed recording so their favourite programs will be ready for them to view on the weekends. Nah – never going to happen – too many Conservative bagmen have cottages up there. But they’d probably do it in Liberal-held ridings.

  3. Did the US court decide that the device was compliant, or simply that the service provider wasn’t infringing copyright?

    huh a US COURT RULED.

  5. All the lawyers at parliament and….
    i now have 15 dvd ripped NON copyright films ( aka they are pre 1958 films )

    The anti circumvention section will net me a 20,000 fine per violation of that bill, by time it becomes law and i say let it, i will have 20 or so. AND that means life in prison for non payment of fines and a section 12 charter violation for cruel and unusual punishment.

  6. hrmmm
    what bell canada doing or asking you to do illegal stuff NO REALLY?
    I’VE cancelled my sat service and i said due to several factors:
    1) There service sucks
    2) There support cheats lies , coerces and defrauds when it can
    3) They can break contracts at will with no penalty and if we do we get one and sometimes when they break it they penalize us anyhow, better to get out now and not have any tech around me that is contracted to bell canada.

  7. @ guess
    I don’t want to say this guess, but whether the public outcry is great enough or not, this bill is going to pass, after all it’s “big business” that’s pushing for it, therefore they have the funds necessary to “buy” whomever they want to, thus the bill will be passed despite public outcry. It truly is a sad existence when the very people we depend on to represent us, can be so easily controlled through greed.

  8. No real hope
    It’s true. There is no hope. We’re pretty much doomed as a society and this is just another step in that.

  9. Bell Canada
    Well what do you expect from a company like Bell? They are trying to “fight” the piracy boogie man by limiting BitTorrent downloads on their “over capacity network” (which was proven to be a lie).

    Then they turn around and say piracy/time shifting is ok as long as you pay US for your internet AND satelite TV.

    What kind of a company is this?

  10. Conservatives are the digital says:

    Ah the good old conservatives the Diefenbaker of the digital era.

    The only industries the conservatives understand is oil and farming.

    No wonder why they slash grants for cultural innovation and want to shut down the high tech sector

    Like Diefenbaker didn’t ‘get’ aerospace – Harper doesn’t get technology.

  11. Good for laymen, bunk for techies
    This is a decent improvement for regular folks that don’t know much about computers. But, if you’re looking for *real* PVR freedom, with a rapidly expanding set of plugins, that lets you store your files pretty much anywhere you want (say, on a RAID data server connected to your home’s local network so that everything is private and you can’t be accused of ‘making content available’) there’s MythTV.

    It’s an open source project that allows anyone with technical competence and some TV tuner cards to set up a custom-built PVR at home. *OR* you can just use the defaults from the installer. There are even some computer distributors that sell machines with it pre-installed, so that if you ever decide to get into the guts of the app, you can.

    I’m smitten with our Mythbox at home, and I always cringe when I hear people talking about this or that restricted aspect of their brand name PVR. If you haven’t seen one in action, I’d suggest trying to do so… soon.


  12. Boiled Frog says:

    I think that all the cable- and satellite-TV providers encrypt their HD content. I don’t think MythTV can decrypt the encrypted HD channels. If you want to record HD you’re stuck with your provider’s PVR.

  13. svideo
    and i am now actively researching civil lawsuits regarding the practices of ExpressVu , Bell Sympatico and Bell Telephone in regards to “Misrepresentation”.

    Svideo already exists mr geist…..
    And there isnt a law to prevent the use.
    like the net if you place it onto levied media then whats the darn issue.

    Often we forget the little guy, the SMB, in our discussions of the comings and goings of the Internet marketing industry. Sure there are times like this when a report surfaces talking about their issues and concerns but, for the most part, we like to talk about big brands and how they do the Internet marketing thing well or not so well.

  15. says:

    cottage industry
    The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary.