Shortcomings of Bill C-61 As Clear as A Bell

Bill C-61 has been met with much criticism from IP experts and users alike. Though C-61 died on account of the federal election, debating its merits is not redundant as we may see its return.  As I see it, much of what is wrong with the Bill can be seen in the following example of its effects.  Under the Bill, Bell Canada’s new accessory for its personal video recorder would become an illegal device.  Bell is offering an external hard drive for its PVR’s, which would allow users to “record forever” by transferring their recordings to it.  C-61 prohibits archiving of this sort, only permitting holding on to recorded data for long enough to watch it.  This is a perfect example of the over-restrictive nature of C-61.

This kind of legislation stifles ingenuity and innovation.  Bell has created an accessory that enhances the use of a popular technology.  Without this device, a PVR user can still store a recording on his PVR “forever” providing he can spare the space.  The accessory merely makes it more practical to do so.  Bill C-61 would also render a score of other innovative devices and services illegal.  Canadian companies should not be dissuaded from creating innovative products.  Canada is sorely lacking in innovation as it is.  Innovation provides consumers with ways of enhancing their enjoyment of technology, and it is a far better way of generating money than selling off Canadian natural resources to foreign countries.

Further, I see this as an illustration of Bill C-61’s failure to strike a fair balance between the rights of users and owners of IP.  As much as owners’ rights need protection, so too do the users’.  This sentiment is shared in the SCC’s CCH ruling.  Putting a limit on the amount of time a user can hold on to legally obtained recordings is too restrictive of users’ rights in my opinion.  This Bill would also illegalize many common tasks that many Canadians perform everyday.  This includes transferring the data of copy-protected CD’s and DVD’s to one’s iPod.  Canada’s copyright act is, without question, outdated.  Amending it in a way that is out of sync with current technology and IP trends is not the way to bring it up to speed. 

Perhaps the most lamentable consequence of illegalizing such activity is the potentially illegitimating effect it would have on the Canadian government and legal system.  What does it say of our government if they draft legislation that makes everyday activity illegal?  Are people to believe that they are crooks for using the new toy they bought from Bell World?  Or are they more likely to think that the Canadian government is out of touch with the reality of the times?  Such irresponsible legislation has the capacity to make the public undermine Canadian law.  This could in turn make Canadians more prone to ignore and break laws; including, ironically, other IP law.  That, and not “recording forever”, would be the real crime.