Thursday, March 16, 2006

The DaVinci Code Trial

Dan Brown, author of "The DaVinci Code," (TDVC) has now completed several days of testimony on the stand in London talking about his 2003 best-seller. I thought this might be a good time to check in on the trial.

Brown's publisher is being sued by two of the three authors of a non-fiction book, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," (HBHG) published more than twenty years before TDVC. The authors, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, claim that Brown stole the "architecture" of their book--their themes and ideas. In case you have not yet read TDVC, I don't want to spoil it for you. However, the novel presents an alternate history to that offered in the Bible, particularly as it relates to Jesus.

The publisher--Random House--actually published both books in question. Of course, before this trial, HBHG had sold only two million copies (only!!) while TDVC has sold more than forty million copies. You really get a sense of how enormous TDVC is when you speak condescendingly of a book that sold ONLY two million copies.

The big question looming over the proceedings in London is whether the planned debut of TDVC movie, starring Tom Hanks, scheduled to be released in mid-May, will be delayed by a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs.

Random House insists that Baigent and Leigh were not the first or the only writers to present the ideas Brown explored in TDVC. The publishing house also argues that "general ideas" cannot be covered by copyright.

According to The Guardian, Brown seemed completely at ease on the stand. He denied plagiarizing HBHG although he acknowledged that he had read the book as part of his research. He explained that his wife, Blythe, is his main researcher. "He said he had read almost 30 other books relevant to the subject and more than 300 documents." (The Guardian)

While the plaintiff's lawyers are busy pointing to all the similarities between TDVC and HBHG, Brown pointed to the numerous differences. He did acknowledge that "he named a character after the authors: Sir Leigh Teabing, an anagram of 'Baigent' and 'Leigh.' He said he inserted the names in his novels only of people whom he respected or cared for." (The Guardian)

The trial is being closely watched because of the copyright issues. It is believed that the authors chose to sue in Great Britain because that country's copyright laws might be more favorable to the plaintiff's point of view.

Stay tuned...

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