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Author Brown back in court for Da Vinci Code case

March 7, 2006

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) – Author Dan Brown was back in court on
Tuesday to answer claims he plagiarized the work of two
historians for his best-seller “The Da Vinci Code.”

After a week’s break in hearings, the case proper began on
Tuesday with Michael Baigent, who is suing Brown’s British
publisher, taking the witness stand.

Baigent and Richard Leigh, who wrote the 1982 hit “The Holy
Blood, and the Holy Grail,” are suing their own publisher
Random House for copyright infringement, saying the U.S.
novelist stole the whole “architecture” of their book.

As Brown and his legal team looked on, lawyers hunted for
missing documents among stacks of files and the conversation
turned to the Knights Templar, the Priory of Sion and the
restoration of Jesus’ bloodline to the thrones of Europe.

During cross examination, Random’s lawyer John Baldwin
sought to undermine Baigent’s argument that Brown had stolen
the “central theme” of his 1982 book.

He pointed out differences between an outline of the Holy
Blood which Baigent and Leigh wrote in 1978 to send to
publishers and what the historians now say is the central theme
of their book they are seeking to protect.

He also said that a newspaper article used by the
historians to support their case did not say “Dan Brown used a
thriller plot to disseminate the central theme points of Holy
Blood Holy Grail” as they had claimed.

Baigent conceded that seven of the 15 central theme points
identified by the historians did not appear in the article.

STAKES ARE HIGH

With more than 36 million copies of Brown’s novel in
circulation, a major Hollywood adaptation due for release in
May and a potentially important precedent in copyright law
being set, the stakes at London’s High Court are high.

However, Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is making the
movie starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, appears unfazed.

“This lawsuit is not about the movie, and we are proceeding
with our plans,” said a spokesman for the Hollywood studio in
Los Angeles.

Justice Peter Smith said on Tuesday that the key point of
the case may prove to be the sequence in which Brown had read
his sources.

In their opening arguments last week, Random’s lawyers told
the court that Brown had written a synopsis of The Da Vinci
Code before he or his wife, who helped in his research, had
even looked at The Holy Blood, and the Holy Grail.

The case centers around the idea that Jesus married Mary
Magdalene, they had children who survived and married into a
line of French kings, that the lineage continues today and a
secret society based in France aims to restore the lineage to
the thrones of Europe.

The publisher says the ideas the historians are seeking to
protect are too broad, and that Brown used several sources for
his research, including The Holy Blood book.

In fact, the name of one of the main characters in The Da
Vinci Code, Sir Leigh Teabing, is an anagram of Leigh and
Baigent. Teabing refers directly to their work in the
narrative.

Last August, Brown won a court ruling against another
writer, Lewis Perdue, who claimed The Da Vinci Code copied
elements of two of his novels.

(Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte in Los Angeles)


Source: reuters