Court Case Soon to Finish

 The Da Vinci Code – Holy Blood  court case in which two historians accuse Dan Brown of copying their work in his novel The Da Vinci Code is due to finish, ending one of the most closely watched copyright claims of recent years. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh wrote The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a work of historical conjecture published in 1982, which shares some of the same themes as Mr Brown’s best-selling religious thriller.

They are suing Mr Brown’s British publisher Random House, which also happens to be their own. Both books raise the possibility that Jesus had a child by Mary Magdalene, she fled to France after the Crucifixion and that Christ’s bloodline survives to this day.

They also associate Magdalene with the Holy Grail. The authors warn that should the historians succeed, there would be serious implications for fiction writers who have always incorporated other people’s ideas and research into their works. Legal experts say the claimants face an uphill task to protect general ideas. “You would hamper artistic creativity if you couldn’t write a novel that theorizes about a conspiracy theory,? said Boston-based intellectual property lawyer Edward Naughton of Holland & Knight. “That’s why courts have been very wary about allowing protection of ideas that are this general.?

In his summing up arguments on Friday, Random House’s lawyer John Baldwin emphasised that ideas of a factual nature should be available for any reader to use. “If it were otherwise the dissemination and discussion of history, science, religion and like topics would be stultified. Creativity of novelists, TV producers and film makers would be stymied,? he said.

It could take weeks for Justice Peter Smith, who presided over three weeks of hearings, to deliver judgment.Mr Brown was present for most of the hearings and showed signs of frustration during three days of cross-examination. While Mr Brown admits Holy Blood was one of his sources, he says he had many others and its ideas are not new anyway. One character in The Da Vinci Code has a name that is an anagram of Baigent and Leigh, and he refers to their book in the narrative.

The claimants’ lawyer Jonathan Rayner James said Mr Brown lied in his witness statement when he said neither he nor his wife Blythe, also his research assistant, had seen the Holy Blood before he wrote the synopsis for The Da Vinci Code in ’01.

Mr James also questioned how Dan Brown knew the origin of his research when so much was carried out by his partner. Though Ms Blythe was not present at London’s High Court, she emerged as a key figure in the case, not only researching for The Da Vinci Code but also coming up with some of its main themes including the sacred feminine and Jesus’ bloodline. With around 40m copies of The Da Vinci Code sold and a Hollywood blockbuster starring Tom Hanks due for release in May, there is plenty at stake. 

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