Safe harbour provisions would protect design marketplaces and similar startups from having to face court action if they can prove they have taken reasonable steps to prevent a copyright infringement.
StartupAus argues the suggestion is «all stick and no carrot». It cites companies including Canva, Redbubble and 99Designs that already follow global practice of removing copyrighted content upon request.
The possibility of extending these protections to the startup community were thwarted in 2018 when the government altered the provisions to apply to libraries and education institutions but paused on applying the laws to companies.
StartupAus argues that idea of a mandatory take down scheme does not address protections for startups and «would result in a scheme that implemented a take-down mechanism without the accompanying safe harbour that provides the incentive with which to cooperate».
«Anything which requires a significant amount of user submitted content, there are liability risks there,» chief operating officer Alex Gruzska says.
Global standards championed
Melbourne startup 99Designs is one business that has spoken out about the importance of safe harbour for tech companies.
Chief executive Patrick Llewellyn says his business, which connects customers to designs from freelancers, just wants certainty on this issue.
«Our position is we would like to see Australia come in line with the rest of the world. We’ve always had a business based on global safe harbour standards,» he says.
Llewellyn says local startups already pursue high standards when preserving the intellectual property of others and act swiftly if they receive a request to take down content.
«It’s in our best interests to win the trust of our customers by acting in good faith.»
As it stands, it’s «not particularly clear» where Australia is going on this issue, he says.
Gruszka believes the uncertainty is another deterrent for ventures to set up shop here.
«The simple fact is if I wanted to start a digital platform, I wouldn’t start up in Australia,» he says.
Submissions to the ACCC’s digital platforms inquiry preliminary report closed on February 15. The commission is considering submissions ahead of a final report to be released on June 3.
Emma is the small business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne.