Keeping the wolf from the door is difficult for father of four

FAMILY MAN: Michael Brown says finding a place to rent in Orange when you’re on a low income is tough. Photo: PHIL BLATCHSINGLE father of four Michael Brown admits his life is a jugging act.
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If he’s not scheduling his children’s homework, playtime and sleep he’s budgeting to ensure he’s got enough money left from his Centrelink payments to feed and house his family.

“There’s always food on the table,” he said.

“I always make sure they have enough fruit and vegetables but I can’t remember the last time I gave them lollies or ice-cream.”

Mr Brown isn’t surprised by the results of Anglicare’s latest study that shows affordable housing in Orange is hard to find.

He currently rents a large house close to Calare Public School and feels grateful to have it.

When he first started renting he was still living with his ex-fiancee and doubts he would have been considered as a tenant otherwise.

“I know if I had to move, as a single dad with four kids, a lot of agents would say no to me even though I’ve got a good rental record,” he said.

“I think because I’m a man a bit of sexism also comes into it, people think guys aren’t as tidy and neat as females.”

Mr Brown said he thinks most people would he shocked at how hard life is for low-income families.

“If I had four normal kids I’d be in trouble, but I’ve got four of the best behaved kids you could have,” he said.

Mr Brown’s children range in age from one to six, and despite seeing their mothers regularly, they spend the majority of their time with him.

“I’ve got a lot of systems in place and I’m regimented, I make sure I’ve got one-on-one time with each child.

“Time management is the biggest thing for me.”

According to Mr Brown the welfare of his children always comes first, and he’ll go without food himself to ensure they’re got what they need.

“I feel lucky I’ve got them.”

Mr Brown said he doesn’t rely on help from charities but was grateful Anglicare’s no interest loan helped him buy a new fridge when his old one broke down.

Source: Central Western Daily

Airbnb nightmare as couple’s home is trashed in Calgary

Star and Mark King in their trashed home. Photo: Screengrab, Calgary Herald video A screenshot of Star King’s Instagram account showing the damage to her home.
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A screenshot of Star King’s Instagram account showing the damage to her home.

A couple who rented out their house on popular accommodation site Airbnb returned to find it had been trashed, in what Canadian police described as a “drug-induced orgy”.

Mark and Star King said they were almost knocked over by the fumes when they walked into their home, in Sage Hill, north-west Calgary, after a weekend away.

They were then confronted with the extent of the destruction, which was devastating, the couple told the Calgary Herald.

Their furniture had been destroyed, smashed glass littered the floor, and piles of cigarette butts, food and rubbish were strewn throughout the house.

The toilet was flooded and mustard, mayonnaise and sauce were smeared across the walls and floors.

Cigarettes had been stubbed out on the alcohol-soaked furniture, while upstairs, the couple found bras, underwear and condoms lying around. Police said body fluids – including urine, semen and vomit – were found throughout the home.

Mrs King also found a chicken bone in one of her shoes.

“Chicken thighs in our shoes? It’s just unbelievable,” Mr King told Global News in Canada.

“The violation, the lies, the pretense of what it was for and then the complete disrespect.”

It will cost between $C50,000 and $C75,000 ($52,000 and $77,000) to fix the two-storey house, which the couple bought in 2010.

Mr King said he and his wife believed they were renting out the house to a man in his 40s who had contacted them through the short-term rental site. The man claimed that he and three other adults were visiting Calgary for a family wedding.

The Kings handed over their keys on Saturday and went to stay with Mr King’s parents, hoping to make a bit of extra money.

But, that night, the Kings’ neighbours reported that guests started arriving at the house, before a party bus pulled up and more guests piled out.

About 100 people crammed into the house, prompting numerous noise complaints to police during the weekend.

A neighbour contacted the Kings on Monday morning to ask if everything was all right, alerting them to the destruction in their home.

The Kings drove home to find the police were already there, responding to reports of a break-in.

“When we came in, one of the police said, ‘This isn’t a party, this was a drug-induced orgy,’ ” Mr King said.

The police had also told them a hazardous materials crew would have to enter the house before they could start cleaning up.

Constable Attila Horvath, from the Calgary Police Service, said he had “never seen anything like it” in his nine years of policing.

“You could see that there was significant damage to the house, especially in the living room,” he said.

“It was almost anger; I couldn’t believe that someone could do that in three days to another person’s home.”

Police said the man who rented the Kings’ house could face charges of mischief over $C5000.

Jakob Kerr, a spokesman for Airbnb, told the Calgary Herald that the organisation had a $US1 million ($1.25 million) host damage guarantee, and had offered the Kings cleaning services and accommodation while their house was fixed.

“We have zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour and our team is working quickly to make this right,” he said.

“We have banned this guest from Airbnb, and our trust and safety team will offer its full assistance to law enforcement in any investigation of this incident. We have been in very close contact with these hosts and we are working quickly to reimburse them under our $1 million host guarantee, which covers a host’s property in the rare event of damages.

“Over 35 million guests have stayed on Airbnb, and property damage is extremely rare.”

Fairfax Media

Physicist Dr Gordon Troup on the science of brewing the perfect cup of coffee

Dr Gordon Troup is a researcher from Monash Uni who is on a quest to make the perfect coffee. Photo: Justin McManusSome people take their coffee so seriously it becomes a science. Eighty-three-year-old Gordon Troup is one of those people. But don’t call him a coffee snob. For him, it’s purely professional.
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The physicist from Monash University has spent 28 years studying the beloved bean in his quest to nail what makes the perfect cup of coffee.

His work begins early in the production process – long before the barista grinds the beans.

Using an electron paramagnetic resonance machine to study the free radicals and antioxidants contained in the intact beans, Dr Troup was able to analyse the chemical composition of the arabica bean during various stages of the roasting process.

With his Melbourne University collaborator Simon Drew, Dr Troup discovered a third family of free radicals in arabica coffee beans that hadn’t been previously identified. Unlike the other two groups, these free radicals survived the roasting process.

“That’s interesting because it tells us that there is something else going on here that is different,” he said.

Of the three families of free radicals in the coffee bean, one is present from germination but is destroyed in the early stages of roasting. The second is destroyed at medium temperatures during the roasting process while the third survives.

Dr Troup said the information, outlined a paper published in the journal Plos One this month, would benefit large and small-scale roasters who are ever-keen to understand the bean.

“It tells you something more about the chemical reactions that are going on and that helps in the roasting process because it means you have a full picture,” he said.

Dr Troup said wine and coffee shared similar chemicals and like wine, the flavour could be altered by blending different varieties. Arabica coffee is considered bitter and often blended with other varieties.

“But to do this, you first need an understanding of what is happening at a chemical level,” he said.

Dr Troup was one of the first scientists in the world to discover and isolate the free radicals in coffee in 1988.

Native to Ethiopia, the arabica coffee bean is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated.

The study was co-funded by Italian coffee roasting company Illycaffè, who approached Dr Troup in 2012 to conduct the research. Italian researchers Luciano Navarini and Furio Liverani were co-authors on the Plos One paper.   

Wycliff Palu, Jacques Potgieter reunite in NSW Waratahs blockbuster against Brumbies

The Waratahs are mustering their big guns to break a four-year drought in Canberra on Friday night.
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Damaging forwards Wycliff Palu and Jacques Potgieter will reunite in the NSW back row for the first time since round nine as the defending champions prepare to take on Australian conference leaders the Brumbies.

Palu played off the bench against the Rebels last week and Potgieter did the same against the Hurricanes the week prior, leaving them fresh for a pivotal match in the Waratahs’ campaign to make the finals.

They are the only two changes to the NSW starting line up, with coach Michael Cheika leaving the front row and back line unchanged from last week’s nail biter against Melbourne.

The Brumbies, meanwhile, have welcomed back Wallabies Ben Alexander and Sam Carter to the pack.

The Canberra side are still without Test halves Nic White and Matt Toomua, with Michael Dowsett and Christian Lealiifano reprising the combination for a second week.

Australian conference bragging rights are up for grabs in the clash, with seven rounds left in the regular season. The Brumbies are automatic qualifiers as the log stands now, while the Waratahs sit in seventh place, just outside the crucial top six. Crucially, they have a game in hand, while the Brumbies have a second bye in round 15.

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Peter Betham, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Jacques Potgieter, Dave Dennis (c), Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Res: Tolu Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Mitch Chapman, Stephen Hoiles, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Matt Carraro (one to be omitted).

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Robbie Coleman, Joe Tomane, Christian Lealiifano, Michael Dowsett, Ita Vaea, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Jordan Smiler, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore (c), JP Smith. Res: Josh Mann-Rea, Allan Alaalatoa, Ruan Smith, Blake Enever, Jarrad Butler, Joe Powell, James Dargaville, Nigel Ah Wong. 

Matthew Gardiner turns to social media as AFP probes role in overseas conflict

Matthew Gardiner has taken to Twitter following his return to Australia. Photo: ABCSenior Labor figure leaves to fight against Islamic StateMatthew Gardiner arrested at Darwin airport
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Matthew Gardiner stunned his Labor Party colleagues around the country when he secretly disappeared from his Darwin home in January to fight against Islamic State.

Among his thousands of social media posts prior to January, there had never been a single mention of overseas conflicts or the Islamic State terror group.

He seemed more concerned with campaigning for union members, heckling the Northern Territory’s Liberal politicians and posting happy snaps of his three sons, aged between three and 11.

Since returning home earlier this month, the 43-year-old former president of the NT’s Labor party branch has remained silent due to the Australian Federal Police’s investigation into his involvement in overseas conflict.

However, his tweets have offered an insight into his new-found political views and his reasons for going to a war zone to allegedly support Kurdish groups proscribed by the Australian government as terrorist organisations.

He has been tweeting regularly since April, hinting that he travelled to Syria because he felt a moral obligation to help those being killed by Islamic State. Posts suggest he considered himself a hero or a warrior for doing so.

Among a series of motivational quotes he posted was one from Martin Luther King, Jr: pic.twitterm/EPnS2jb0Pu— Matthew Gardiner (@mjgardiner513) April 28, 2015

He references the duty to “stand between the innocent and harm” and “stand between [the] enemy and all that he loves or holds sacred”.

Mr Gardiner, a former soldier who says he served 10 years in the military, had no known links to Kurdistan but befriended a Kurdish woman on Facebook and de-friended most others shortly before he left. Unfortunately I’m still under AFP investigation for suspected terrorist activity for supporting YPG/ YPJ #4corners— Matthew Gardiner (@mjgardiner513) April 27, 2015

He appears to have returned to Australia a changed man, expressing his admiration for the Kurdish militia units, YPG and YPJ, and his frustration that Australians who want to fight with the Kurds are treated like criminals.

He said the Kurds are “fighting for their lives” and those who help them, like Australian ex-soldier Ashley Johnston, are “heroes”.

Another motivational quote he posted on Twitter said: “I’d rather live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep”.

In another, he posted: “Better it is to die in battle with honor, than to live in shame because you did not defend your people”. Australia is the only country in the world that has outlawed fighting with the YPG/ YPJ against Daesh #4corners— Matthew Gardiner (@mjgardiner513) April 27, 2015

Foreign incursion laws prevent Australians from supporting or participating in overseas conflicts, including the Kurds’ battle for autonomy within Syria and Islamic State’s battle in Syria and Iraq to establish a caliphate.

YPG and YPJ are considered part of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is classified by the Australian government as a terrorist organisation.

His tweets do not say that he fought with the group, only suggesting that he “supported” and “helped” them.

In response to an ABC program on Kurdish fighters, he tweeted:  Why is the law written so if an Australian helps the kurds they are treated as criminals? #4corners— Matthew Gardiner (@mjgardiner513) April 27, 2015

He said he would be the “test case” for whether Australians will be prosecuted for fighting back against Islamic State.

Mr Gardiner did not respond to Fairfax Media’s requests for comment.

He was suspended by the Labor Party when he left Australia and the AFP’s investigation is ongoing.

Bill Shorten pushes back on Tanya Plibersek’s call for a binding vote on same-sex marriage

Labor leader Bill Shorten has sent a clear signal that he does not agree with the push by his deputy,Tanya Plibersek, for the ALP to have a binding vote on same-sex marriage, highlighting a clear split in the Labor leadership.
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Mr Shorten said that while Australia had waited “too long” for same-sex marriage, “the best way to achieve it … is not to force people to agree with it, but to convince them”.

Earlier this week, when Mr Shorten was overseas for Anzac Day commemorations, Ms Plibersek called for Labor to compel its MPs to vote for same-sex marriage, ending its treatment as a conscience issue for the party.

Ms Plibersek argued that same-sex marriage was an issue of “legal equality” and Labor should change its platform at its national conference in July.

The move has been met with passionate criticism from some quarters of the Labor Party, with some MPs threatening to cross the floor if they are made to support same-sex marriage. Others are angry at what they perceive to be leadership maneuvering by the ALP’s deputy leader.

One Labor Right MP said anger in the party with Ms Plibersek was “unbelievable” and her actions were  a “white hot f— you” to Mr Shorten, while Left MPs who support same-sex marriage said she had made a tactical mistake that raised questions about her political judgment.

When asked by reporters if he thought Ms Plibersek had raised the issue while he was overseas to boost her own popularity, Mr Shorten replied “not at all”.

The Labor leader is on the record as supporting a conscience vote and noted again on Thursday that he would like to see a conscience vote rather than a binding one.

While Mr Shorten also noted that Ms Plibersek had previously supported a binding vote (she voted for one at the ALP’s 2011 national conference), his own remarks reinforce the stark contrast between their views on same-sex marriage strategy.

The Labor frontbench is also split on the conscience vote idea.

Members of the Left (Ms Plibersek’s faction), including Penny Wong, Mark Butler, Jenny Macklin and Stephen Jones, support a binding vote.

Members of right factions (which include Mr Shorten), such as Joel Fitzgibbon and David Feeney, support a conscience vote.

Senate crossbencher David Leyonhjelm wants the Parliament to reconsider same-sex marriage after it previously rejected a proposal in 2012, but is waiting to see if the Liberal Party will change its position to give its MPs a free vote.

With James Massola 

Follow us on Twitter  Australian Politics – Fairfax

Stop giving local jobs to backpackers and foreign workers: says Ged Kearney of ACTU

ACTU President Ged Kearney Photo: Steven Siewert ACTU President Ged Kearney Photo: Steven Siewert
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ACTU President Ged Kearney Photo: Steven Siewert

ACTU President Ged Kearney Photo: Steven Siewert

Fruit picking jobs are popular with travelling backpackers. Photo: Louie Douvis

Australia needs to clamp down on the number of backpackers and other foreigners receiving working visas, according to the country’s peak union body.

But business group the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has hit back at the push, saying any reduction in temporary visas would damage the economy and ultimately reduce job opportunities.

In a submission to the Senate inquiry into temporary work visas, the Australian Council of Trade Unions says the number of international workers needs to be curbed in favour of traditional permanent migration.

The unions want the currently uncapped temporary visa system to be reviewed and stricter laws around 457 visa testing.

“We need to focus on creating job opportunities for Australians, we must ensure our permanent migration system is robust and we must limit the use of temporary visas to reflect genuine skills shortages,” says ACTU president Ged Kearney.

According to Department of Immigration figures, there are 1.8 million temporary entrants in Australia.

Of these, 1.2 million have work rights, including 167,000 with 457 visas, 160,000 with working holiday visas and 623,000 New Zealand special visa holders.

The 457 visas, which allow skilled workers to stay in Australia for up to four years, have been a long-standing source of controversy. Labor, the Greens and the union movement have argued the program is regularly rorted and takes jobs from local workers, while it is supported by the business community.

The ACTU claims the number of short-stay workers rose by almost 50 per cent from 2007 to 2014.

In their submission, they argue there is a concerning relationship between the number of unemployed people and the number of temporary visa holders.

“The working holiday visa should be capped to allow more opportunity for young Australians to enter the workforce,” the submission argues.

“There is no benefit to the current trend where we rely on transient workers to fill alleged gaps in skills,” according to Ms Kearney.

After New Zealand, the majority of temporary entrants are from China, the UK, India, South Korea, the US and Germany.

The ACCI criticised the union’s submission, with Jenny Lambert director of employment education and training saying that capping the number of working backpackers would hurt the tourism sector.

“The tourism and agricultural sectors will also be hurt because they rely on those workers to fill seasonal labour shortages. The union proposal could put in danger the ability of Australians to undertake working holidays overseas, as the visas are part of reciprocal arrangements,” she said.

“Reducing the capacity of international students to undertake work would make Australia a less attractive place for students, undermining our $15 billion international education industry.”

The ACCI says it will soon release its submission to the Senate inquiry.

The Senate inquiry was established by Labor and the Greens in March because they felt a government-commissioned review had not gone far enough in investigating the 457 visa program.

In March, Assistant Minister for Immigration Michaelia Cash announced the government would adopt various recommendations of the review that were aimed at cracking down on rorting.

The new inquiry was labelled “a waste of Senate time and resources” by the Australian Industry Group.

At the time, AIG chief executive Innes Willox said the inquiry would retread ground covered by the government’s review.

“It found no evidence to back the claims made of widespread rorting of the program and made numerous suggestions for policy changes which have been adopted by the government and that address many of the areas of concern to the Senate,” Mr Willox said.

Ms Cash attacked the inquiry in March, calling it politically motivated by people “fundamentally opposed to the 457 skilled migration program.”

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Avengers’ Jeremy Renner sings funny ode to Hawkeye on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show

Jeremy Renner performing on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Photo: YouTube Jeremy Renner as the much maligned superhero Hawkeye. Photo: Jay Maidment/AP
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More on Avengers: Age of Ultron

Actor Jeremy Renner has surprised fans of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with a piano-led tribute song to Hawkeye, his Avengers: Age of Ultron character.

Hawkeye is sometimes maligned for having lamer super powers than the likes of Thor, Hulk and Captain America.

The film’s writer/director, Joss Whedon, told MTV News that “[Hawkeye] did get the fuzzy end of the lollipop” in the previous film, in 2012, The Avengers.

A deadpan Renner looked as comfortable as a veteran balladeer, seated at a grand piano crooning (to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud): “When you’re on a team with the Hulk and Thor … will people believe that I’m not quite as tough, will anyone even notice me?

“But listen, I’ve got powers too and they’re sweet. I promise I can do so much more than just archery.

“I’ve got a collection of scarves and berets, I play trombone … I once got to second base on my Tinder date, my cat has got its own Instagram … and I can open a pickle jar.”

Renner went on: “Yes I know about Captain America’s strength, and the Hulk becomes a towering man, but I got seventh place in my fantasy league and I once butt-dialed Jean Claude Van Dame. Baby I’m as super as they are.”

All good fun, if just a plug for the film, but if anything it yet again shows remarkable power of The Tonight Show to produce entertaining viral videos that gain millions of YouTube views with impressive regularity.

Renner’s Hawkeye tribute had racked up nearly one million views within two days of going to air.

In the past 18 months Fallon’s program has chalked up hundreds of millions of YouTube views, with some of his most popular clips including the series of lip-syncing battles, the drum-off between the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Chad Smith and Will Ferrell, Fallon’s own failure to read romantic hints from Nicole Kidman and 56-year old Kevin Bacon re-enacting his Footloose dance sequence on the way to Fallon’s desk. Last week Russell Crowe even starred in song on The Tonight Show, as have Australian acts Sia and Sheppard.

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Windows 10 takes shape at Microsoft Build 2015

Microsoft is putting an emphasis on the fact that Windows 10 can power all the devices in your life, hoping to have the operating system on 1 billion machines by 2018. Photo: MicrosoftDuring the first day of the Microsoft Build Developer Conference — the tech giant’s biggest event of the year when it comes to all things software — Windows chief Terry Myerson said Microsoft was aiming to have Windows 10 on 1 billion devices by 2018, a bold goal given the less-than-stellar uptake of Windows 8.
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The fact that the new operating system is a step away from the “metro” interface that turned so many users off last time will certainly help but Microsoft still faces a circular problem when it comes to keeping its new operating systems relevant (users won’t convert or upgrade because they don’t think the software’s there; developers won’t make software because there are no users).

Making Windows 10 free for all current Windows users as well as forcing it onto devices such as the Surface tablet, Xbox One and Windows phones will make up some of the numbers but on Wednesday Microsoft showed it was also keen to sell its vision of a universal operating system to both users and developers who have moved to competing products. All-new browser gets an official name

After revealing in January that a brand new browser was in the works, and confirming later that it would effectively replace the increasingly shunned Internet Explorer, we finally have a new name for Windows 10’s default gateway to the web: Microsoft Edge.

A launch video showed off new features of the browser — previously referred to as Project Spartan — including digital ink for annotating and marking up web pages, deep integration with the Cortana digital assistant and a built-in reading list to keep track of interesting articles.

Keen-eyed observers of the event will have noticed the “Edge” name allows Microsoft to keep the infamous lower-case ‘e’ for its browser’s icon.

Microsoft also announced that developers would be able to repurpose their Chrome extensions to work with Microsoft Edge, which could possibly help the new browser hit the ground running when Windows 10 launches this year. Universal apps puts mobile on PC, PC on a phone

Software ubiquity is a big deal for Windows 10, with Microsoft claiming apps downloaded from its store will work across all your Windows devices seamlessly, be they PC, smartphone or tablet. This is a very powerful feature in theory but useless unless developers have a good reason to make apps for Windows.

To address this, Microsoft announced two new software development kits that allow apps designed for Android or iOS devices to be easily converted into a Windows 10 universal app. Essentially, if an app exists on iPhone, iPad or an Android device, the developer should be able to bring it to Windows PCs, tablets and smartphones without much hassle.

Microsoft also showed off how Continuum — the feature that ensures apps will adapt regardless of your screen size and whether you’re using a touch screen or more traditional hardware — will let you use a Windows 10 phone as a desktop machine. Connecting your smartphone to a monitor or TV will scale the apps out to appear closer to how they would be on a PC. The screen of the smartphone can be used as a proxy mouse and keyboard while docked in this way, or you could opt to connect physical input devices by Bluetooth. You could even watch a video or take a call on the phone while working on the connected screen. Hololens will allow you to stick Windows 10 apps on your wall

Earlier this year Microsoft introduced Hololens, an augmented reality headset that allowed data and computer graphics to appear and be manipulated by a user in the real world. At the time it appeared as though the headset would only run software designed specifically for it (which might have limited it to Microsoft-owned software like the demonstrated Minecraft and Skype), but now we know it will also be able to run any Windows universal app.

The apps will appear in a window just like they would on a PC, but they’ll float around like other virtual objects.You’ll will be able to interact with the windows using gestures and voice, move them around and pin them to walls or set them to follow you around. Such a system could give you easy access to your regular Windows apps and files in the literal background while you inspect 3D objects or appear virtually in a meeting at work.

In addition, Microsoft pointed out there was Hololens-specific software coming from partners including Disney, NASA and Autodesk, and showed off educational-style software that could be used to share and manipulate 3D graphics, like human anatomy for medical students.

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Meet Australian company IP-Echelon, one of the biggest anti-piracy operations in the world

IP-Echelon founder Adrian Leatherland and his firm’s headquarters in Melbourne. Photo: LinkedIN/Fairfax Media IP-Echelon has requested almost 10 million URLs to be removed on Google on behalf of its clients. Photo: Google Transparency Report
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Adrian Leatherland may be the most fearsome pirate hunter in the world.

You’ve probably never heard of the 38-year-old Monash University computer science and maths graduate, or either of his companies – Australian-based IP-Echelon, and the R&D lab that develops its proprietary technology, IP88 Research.

That’s because in the seven years since he registered them with ASIC, Hollywood’s secret weapon in the fight against online piracy has not spoken to the media once, and has managed to fly under the radar – until now.

IP-Echelon, founded in 2008 by Leatherland, the sole shareholder, director and secretary, is what pirates like to call a “copyright troll” – and it has a reputation for being the best in the business.

Situated in a nondescript office on Collins Street in Melbourne’s CBD (it has a second, US office right in the heart of Hollywood), the company’s proprietary software monitors piracy activity around the web from physical “listening stations” in more than 25 countries, trawling peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, as well as social media platforms, websites and online advertising platforms.

It then reports back to copyright owners which internet users’ IP addresses are pirating what, and where, as well as online locations where infringing content is hosted or listed.

With this information, rights holders can then authorise the sending of copyright infringement warning letters to internet service providers, which sometimes forward them on to their customers alleged of pirating. The information gathered by the company can also be used to send takedown requests to websites and search engines, demanding that the search engines delist pirate sites, or that the sites hosting the infringing content remove it.

One of IP-Echelon’s biggest clients is HBO, which recently contracted the firm to help track down pirates of Game of Thrones – the world’s most-pirated show – and send them warning letters asking them to stop illicitly downloading it.

But HBO isn’t its only high-profile client – the company’s client list includes some of the biggest entertainment studios in the world, including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures.

To illustrate the importance of IP-Echelon to these big players, its automated software issued some 7.5 million URL takedown requests to Google on behalf of HBO alone.

Takedown requests – which Google says it complies with more than 99 per cent of the time – result in Google removing specific URLs from its search engine when they are identified as facilitating piracy of a rights-holder’s content.

Overall, IP-Echelon has requested almost 10 million URLs be removed from Google, and has made more takedown requests on behalf of HBO and Paramount than any other piracy-hunting company; it’s the second most-used company for takedown requests on behalf of Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures. Google ranks it 15th in terms of companies that issue takedown requests to it.

The pejorative term “copyright troll”, however, tends to apply when a company contacts individual pirates by mail (digital or snail mail) and asks them to cease pirating a studio’s content or, in some cases, pay compensation for copyright infringement to avoid being sued (which is what Voltage Pictures, the company behind the film Dallas Buyers Club, has attempted to do in the US)

Leatherland personally signed off on recent letters sent to alleged Game of Thrones pirates, telling them to stop pirating the HBO content.

However he told Fairfax Media that IP-Echelon was “not interested in the identity of users” itself, and does not profit from litigation or legal threats.

“We sometimes inform internet service providers (ISPs) that their network is being used inappropriately,” Mr Leatherland said, referring to his company sending them letters which then sometimes get forwarded to customers.

Mr Leatherland described his service as the “Nielsen of piracy”.

“Nielsen measures legal viewing and we measure illegal viewing.”

IP-Echelon’s ability to map trends using its expansive data sets, and its research focus on the psychological motivations behind piracy, are highly sought after by rights holders trying desperately to mitigate revenue losses from copyright infringement.

Given the high rate of piracy in Australia, it’s little wonder Leatherland has gone to efforts to keep a low profile. The very worst kind of pirate – one that seemingly takes pride in ripping stuff for free – is often only too keen to engage in retribution, however futile.

While Leatherland is eager to credit his team of “very smart people” – “several PhDs and other experts” – with developing the company’s proprietary technology, it’s clear IP-Echelon is his baby.

An expert in the field, who wished to remain anonymous, told Fairfax IP-Echelon was “the best outfit in that [piracy monitoring] game”.

Their own technology and algorithms were “far more sophisticated” and “forensically accurate” than others’, the source said.

“They are good at recognising emerging trends and good at recognising digital evidence of any sort in that field.

“These guys have a very good reputation but they are very discreet.”

Staff are made to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA) upon leaving, and just two current employees have their jobs at IP-Echelon listed on LinkedIn – including Leatherland – though Fairfax understands there are upwards of 20 staff at the company.

As it has racked up high-profile clients over the years, the company has made a retreat of sorts through toning down the language on its website.

It was once busily drumming up business with the offer of a “free piracy analysis” and clearly advertised its role in drafting letters to send to alleged infringers, as well as packaging reports “to be used as evidence in court”.

In 2013 however – the same year Google’s transparency report lists IP-Echelon’s first takedown request for HBO – it replaced any mention of the word “piracy” on its website with phrases like “unauthorised distribution channels”, “content infringements” and “copyright entitlements”.

Archived versions of the site also show it employed public relations consultants and lawyers who specialise in “discovery subpoenas” and litigation.

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