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Brown’s Da Vinci Code Did Not Infringe Copyright

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A UK High Court judge has ruled that Dan Brown, author of the monumentally best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, did not infringe the copyright of two authors of a non-fiction book presenting the theory that Jesus with Mary Magdalene began a dynasty of European monarchs.

Dan Brown had told the court that while he had read the book concerned, it was only one of a number of sources that he had used, and had prepared his synopsis even before he read it.

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who wrote The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, published, like The Da Vinci Code by Random House, had argued that he had lifted the “architecture” of their work.

The judge, Mr Justice Peter Smith, said that Brown had not substantially copied their work, and furthermore concluded that The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail did not have a central theme. “It was an artificial creation for the purposes of the litigation working back from The Da Vinci Code,” he ruled.

Mr Brown said outside the court that the verdict “shows that this claim was utterly without merit”. He added, “I’m still astonished that these two authors chose to file their suit at all.”

Many authors will be breathing easier after the ruling. The case had challenged a long-held legal view that while words are copyrightable, ideas are not.

The ruling ends a five-week, closely watched court case. Sales of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail have leapt since it began, which might be some help to its authors as they confront what is likely to be a seven-figure legal bill.

The release of The Da Vinci Code film, which stars Tom Hanks, scheduled for May 19, is now likely to go ahead as planned.

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    this whole episode has been kind of amazing. i was at a bookstore last week and saw at least six books taking up the topic of the “lies” and “inaccuracies” found in the davinci code. parasitic, if you ask me.

  • Eric Olsen

    hee – you beat me!

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    Helps to be a local – was listening out for it on BBC news radio.

  • Eric Olsen

    hmm, what does it mean that you listed HBHG first, where and I used Da Vinci Code?

  • http://newmedia3d.bravejournal.com/index.php Jennipher

    It was a bad test for copyright infringement. A case which has more content that has been copied would be more substantial.

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    Well, Eric, I was thinking that anyone who wanted to would surely have bought TDC by now…

  • http://www.davincispeaks.com Mike Bakelan

    Why can an author protect fiction, but not fictional interpretations of history? Because jurists don’t want to open the floodgates. So you end up with this: The 1946 Graves novel, “King Jesus,” where Holy Blood authors got many ideas for their grail theory, is protected against infringement, but the same ideas when presented in Holy Blood are not. All these books, including the The Da Vinci Code, have the credibility of T.V. commercials. For more info., see Chapter 2 of “Da Vinci Speaks,” online at davincispeaks.com

  • http://13/10/06 CARLOS CHAVEZ

    THE DA VINCI CODE IT´S JUST A BIG FAKE
    WHY DON´T THIS MAN ATTACK MUSULMANS…
    MAYBE ANOTHER SEPTEMBER ELEVENTH WILL HAPPEN AGAIN…
    THIS FREAK MAN JUST TALK ABOUT AND INMEDIATLY ATTACK CATHOLICS
    WHY?
    MAYBE BECAUSE CATHOLICS DON´T ATTACK NO BODY
    WE´LL NEVER HAVE BOMBS…
    ALSO THIS MAN IS A MULTIMILLIONARIE NOW ONLY WITH HIS RIDICULOUS LIES