Australia needs copyright reform to innovate, says Redbubble founder

Australia is being held back by intellectual property laws that are decades out of date and stifling innovation, says Martin Hosking. 
Mr Hosking is a Melbourne Business School alum and co-founder of Redbubble, the online design marketplace that listed on the ASX in 2016 and is currently worth upwards of $350 million.

The tech entrepreneur will speak at the Dean's Leaders Forum on 11 October at Melbourne Business School about the ups and downs of his journey after stepping down as CEO of Redbubble in June.

INSET-Martin-Hosking1.jpgOne of the biggest frustrations of that journey was seeing Australian regulations fall behind those in the rest of the world when it came to dealing with digital content.

"They say 'necessity is the mother of invention', and for over 25 years Australia hasn't had the need to foster invention, keeping the country fairly conservative," Mr Hosking says.

One particular problem, he says, has been the failure to modernise copyright and intellectual property (IP) laws that were designed before the rise of the internet.

"We've had IP issues around reforms which were adopted in the US in 2000, but have not yet been established in Australia almost 20 years later," Mr Hosking says.

"This makes us the only country in the OECD that has IP laws which don't deal with the reality of the internet. It's an anomalous situation which reflects the interests of the media and other vested interest groups preventing such reforms going through."

Despite the difficult conditions, Mr Hosking says he and the Redbubble team decided to stay local to support the emerging Australian tech industry.

"The challenge for emerging start-ups is the lack of support offered for innovation in Australia and it will lead many to establish their headquarters elsewhere," he says.

"We felt that it was important that Redbubble try to bolster the industry sector here, and an IPO on the ASX was one very powerful way of doing that."

Like the rest of his career, Mr Hosking's decision to step down as CEO while he was still in the peak of his career was unconventional – but felt like the right decision.

"People always ask why people don't retire at the top of their game, and the answer is because it's harder in some ways," Mr Hosking says.

"It was the right time for me, because we had a very good internal candidate who was ready for the role, which is important.

"Also, I had other things I wanted to pursue, such as working with my hands physically at the farm, and working on projects in the not-for-profit sector."

Martin Hosking will speak at the Dean's Leaders Forum from 6pm on Thursday, 11 October, and take part in an audience Q&A moderated by Qantas Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Galliott. The event is free and open to the public. You can register here.