Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Judge Dismisses Da Vinci Code Claims

In a 71 page opinion the judge presiding over the "Da Vinci Code" lawsuit has ruled that Michael Baigent and Peter Leigh's claims that Random House infringed their copyright in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail are meritless and has dismissed them. In his summary Mr. Justice Smith found among things that "Holy Blood Holy Grail does not have a Central Theme as contended by the Claimants: it was an artificial creation for the purposes of the litigation working back from the Da Vinci Code", "Even if the Central Themes were copied they are too general or of too low a level of abstraction to be capable of protection by copyright law", "The Central Themes are merely a selective number of facts and ideas artificially taken out of HBHG for the purpose of the litigation", and "There is no "Architecture" or "Structure" to be found in HBHG or the Central Themes as contended by the Claimants nor has Dan Brown infringed any such Architecture or Structure or substantially copied HBHG when he wrote DVC although it is clear it was used to write the Langdon/Teabing lectures." Said the judge, "The majority of the language copying Claims were established but they are not claimed to be textual infringement of the copyright in HBHG and so do not assist the Claimants...[a] comparison of the language of the Central Themes with the text of HBHG and DVC compared by reference to the VSS shows copying of the text from HBHG into DVC. However this is not alleged to a copyright infringement either so does not assist the Claimants. Such copying cannot amount to substantial copying of the text of HBHG and the Claimants have never said it does...[w]hen Dan Brown wrote the Synopsis for DVC he did not use HBHG but used other sources provided to him by Blythe Brown. However his contention that neither he nor his wife acquired or read HBHG until very late in the writing process is rejected. Blythe Brown probably acquired it no later than November 2000 and was using it for research although Dan Brown either did not know that or did not use the material when writing the Synopsis...."

The judge questioned why Dan Brown's wife and principal researcher Blythe Brown was not called as a witness. "No good reason for not calling Blythe Brown was given. Her evidence could have assisted significantly in explaining how various documents were created and how the text of DVC in respect of the lectures came to be written. Any doubts that could have been explained by her were accordingly to be resolved in favour of the Claimants. However her evidence was not crucial to the primary decision on infringement of copyright."

Finally he noted that "This case has not been about Mr Brown's skill and reputation as a thriller writer and should have no impact on it whatsoever."

Read the text of the judgment here.

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