Startup advocacy group, StartupAUS, has criticised the government’s last minute removal of the ‘safe harbour’ provision from legislation that aims to revise copyright laws to allow for greater access to content and material for Australians.
The group described the ‘watered-down’ Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) bill as a ‘blow to Australian entrepreneurs.’
StartupAUS CEO, Alex McCauley, said the continuing absence of a safe harbour regime could jeopardise Australia’s ability to keep young technology companies in Australia, and could put a lid on the creation and growth of a large category of businesses.
A copyright safe harbour regime would facilitate greater innovation and creativity in Australia by providing a mechanism for online platforms to deal with user-generated copyright infringement issues quickly and fairly.
“Australia’s copyright laws have still not caught up with the realities of the internet,” McCauley said. “As a result, the laws still struggle to provide clarity and protection for organisations doing business online.”
McCauley argues that copyright safe harbour is an essential part of the innovation framework as it provides copyright owners a quick and cost-effective way to force an online service provider to remove any infringing content from its network that was put there by users.
“In exchange, the service provider is protected from being sued for damages if they remove the content quickly. This safe harbour provision had strong community support and was backed by the productivity commission.
“Copyright safe harbour is international best practice and without it Australian startups will be held back from participating in the rich global market for content and ideas. We strongly urge the government to reconsider the need for safe harbour provisions.”
McCauley added that many of the world’s most successful technology startups began by providing a platform for content, and lots of local startups are trying to do the same but are disadvantaged due to a lack of safe harbour provisions.
“Some of our most successful young technology companies, like Envato and Redbubble, have already been subjected to legal action as a result. We risk losing great businesses like these, and stifling the growth of others, if we don’t develop a strong safe harbour framework like they have in the US, Singapore, the UK and other EU countries.
“If Australia wants to transition to becoming a digital economy, we must catch up with the rest of the world on how we treat online copyright content,” he said.