Words for the masses: Google Books wins a court battle

IN “THE LIBRARY OF BABEL”, a story by Jorge Borges, a man loses himself in a gargantuan repository of every possible book in the universe. Google Books is not quite that vast, but it is big. Since 2004, Google has teamed with libraries to scan over 20m titles—including many that are out of print—and put them on the web for anyone to access. Users cannot read entire books, unless they are in the public domain. But unlike the sad hero in Borges’s dystopian tale, who never locates the catalogue to the collection, Google Books browsers can search for specific phrases and, without paying, read snippets of countless tomes.A decade ago, a group of authors sued Google, claiming the service cut into their copyrights. After years of legal machinations, a federal district court ruled in favour of the internet giant in 2013. The plaintiffs—including Jim Bouton, author of “Ball Four”, and Betty Miles, who wrote “The Trouble with Thirteen”—appealed to the Second Circuit Court in New York and on October 16th, they were rebuffed again.How can a company get away with digitising millions of books without the authors’ consent and showing them to the world? In his ruling, Judge Pierre Leval explains that copyright law gives “potential creators” the exclusive right to copy their own work in order to expand everybody’s “access to knowledge”. It’s not all about enriching authors. The …

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Global Innovation Index 2015: Switzerland, UK, Sweden, Netherlands, USA are Leaders

Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States of America are the world’s five most innovative nations, according to the Global Innovation Index 2015 PDF, 2015 Global Innovation Index, while China, Malaysia, Viet Nam, India, Jordan, Kenya, and Uganda are among a group of countries outperforming their economic peers.

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Medicinal chemistry: Drugs that live long will prosper

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Trump’s America

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Medicinal chemistry

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A simple change to some pharmaceuticals might boost their efficacy, and make a few firms a packet along the way

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WHATEVER ails you, if you have to take two pills a day for it instead of one, you can blame metabolic clearance. Before they can get busy, drug molecules must run a biochemical gauntlet as the body’s machinery tries to break them down. As a result, much of what is in a pill may be excreted in useless pieces before it has had a chance to work its wonders.  
Last month, though, America’s pharmaceutical regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, received a request to approve a drug, currently called SD-809, that could change this. SD-809 is intended to treat the palsy caused by Huntington’s chorea—a rare and terrible genetic illness. If approved, it will open the gates for a new type of drug that, thanks to a few well-placed atoms of a variant of …

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No go logo: Another setback for Tokyo's beleaguered olympics

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No go logo

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Falling at every hurdle

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THE only remaining calamity that could further dampen the mood around Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic games, it would seem, is an earthquake beneath the 400-metre track. All the other big mishaps have occurred already. On September 1st came the latest embarrassment. Japan scrapped the new logo for its games as accusations of plagiarism swirled around the design, by Kenjiro Sano, a young Japanese graphic artist. Two months earlier the government dumped an ostentatious stadium blueprint by Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-British architect, that had helped win the bid for Tokyo, after costs spiraled to $2.1 billion, nearly twice the initial estimate.
It shouldn’t take long to whip up another logo, but construction of Tokyo’s stadium (design yet to be decided) is now a year behind schedule. Construction won’t begin until 2016 and it won’t be ready by the time of another sporting fixture, the rugby World Cup in 2019. Japan’s Olympics minister, Toshiaki Endo, has …

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On patents, Germany and Poland, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: Letters to the editor

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The Great Fall of China

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On patents, Germany and Poland, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

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An ideas revolution

You suggested a “use it or lose it” rule to reform the patent system (“Time to fix patents”, August 8th). Such a rule may have worked in the past, but not in the 21st century. Today’s technology products are so complicated that small firms cannot build the entire product anymore. Many important breakthroughs have their roots in theoretical research that is rarely built by their inventors. Take the wireless cellular network as an example. Each new generation of the wireless network utilises some fundamental academic idea invented more than ten years before as its main driving force. However, the network is built by big companies spending millions of dollars to develop those ideas as products years later.

Adopting a use-it-or-lose-it policy would mean that those who invented the fundamental ideas would never benefit from their inventions.
HAMID JAFARKHANIChancellor’s …

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