'Da Vinci' Author Wins Court Fight

Author Dan Brown of Exeter, N.H. poses in his hometown May 13, 2003 prior to a reading from his book, "The Da Vinci Code." The death of Pope John Paul II has boosted interest in "The Da Vinci Code" and increased sales of Brown's "Angels and Demons," a thriller that includes purported details on the conclave -- the secret gathering of cardinals that picks the next pope AP

A judge ruled Friday that mega-selling author Dan Brown did not steal ideas for "The Da Vinci Code" from a nonfiction work, ending the suspense about the case with an ultimately unsurprising decision.

High Court judge Peter Smith rejected a copyright-infringement claim by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail," who claimed that Brown's blockbuster "appropriated the architecture" of their 1982 book. In the United States, the book is titled, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail."

Smith said the plaintiffs, who must pay publisher Random House's estimated seven-figure legal bill, had based their copying claim on a "selective number of facts and ideas artificially taken out of (the book) for the purpose of the litigation."

"It would be quite wrong if fictional writers were to have their writings pored over in the way DVC (Da Vinci Code) has been pored over in this case by authors of pretend historical books to make an allegation of infringement of copyright," Smith said in his 71-page ruling.

Brown said he was pleased by the ruling "not only from a personal standpoint but also as a novelist."

"Today's verdict shows that this claim was utterly without merit. I'm still astonished that these two authors chose to file their suit at all," Brown in a statement, adding that he was "eager to get back to writing."

For Brown, it was not just his financial future and reputation that were at stake, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer says, but the whole way in which writers research, filmmakers and academics use research material in the future in their work.

Both books explore theories that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, the couple had a child and the bloodline survives. Most historians and theologians scoff at such ideas, but Brown's fast-paced mix of murder, mysticism, code-breaking and art history has won millions of fans.

"The Da Vinci Code" has sold more than 40 million copies, including 12 million hardcovers in the United States, since it was released in March 2003. It came out in paperback in the United States last week and quickly sold more than 500,000 copies, an astonishing pace for a paperback release. An initial print run of 5 million has already been raised to 6 million.

Among those closely watching this case was Sony Pictures, Palmer reports. Their multi-million dollar movie based on the book and starring Tom Hanks opens May 19.

Random House said the case should have never made it to court.
  • Melissa McNamara

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