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Legal Victory For 'Da Vinci Code' Author

The Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to the author of the "The Da Vinci Code," refusing to consider a case alleging copyright infringement.

Author Lewis Perdue contended that Dan Brown's megathriller is substantially similar to his book, written years before the 2003 publication of "The Da Vinci Code."

Some 60.5 million copies of "The Da Vinci Code" are in print worldwide.

Perdue argued that affidavits detailing similarities between his book, "Daughter of God," and Brown's book should have been considered by a federal judge, who rejected them. The judge ruled that no reasonable juror could find parts of Perdue's work substantially similar to "The Da Vinci Code." An appeals court upheld the ruling.

"The two lower courts had agreed that the challenge to Brown's work was insufficient so there is no great surprise here that the justices would agree to let the matter rest," CBS News legal consultant Andrew Cohen said.

"I would have been shocked had the Supreme Court taken the case, which never really raised any important or new copyright issues," Cohen said.

In one of the rejected affidavits, a literary expert found the evidence of infringement overwhelming. In another affidavit, a foreign linguistics expert found the similarities to be "striking."

Perdue had alleged that Brown copied the basic premise of "Daughter of God," including notions that history is controlled by victors, not losers, and the importance of the Roman Emperor Constantine in requiring a transition from a female to a male-dominated religion, the judge said.

Brown and Random House Inc. had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking a declaratory judgment that his work does not infringe on Perdue's.

In a countersuit, Perdue asked the judge to rule that there was infringement and award $150 million in damages.

The case is Perdue v. Brown and Random House Inc., 06-213.

In other action Monday, the Supreme Court:

  • let stand the murder conviction of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, who is serving a prison term of at least 20 years. The justices declined, without comment, to take Skakel's appeal of his conviction in the beating death of his Greenwich, Conn., neighbor, Martha Moxley, 31 years ago when the two were teenagers. Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, was convicted in 2002.
  • refused to intervene to keep an American facing a death sentence in Iraq from being handed over to authorities in Baghdad. Muhammad Munaf has been in military custody in Iraq since last year. He was sentenced to death last month by an Iraqi judge for his role in the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad. He claimed his trial was flawed and his confession was coerced.
  • reinstated the death penalty for a California man convicted of beating a woman to death 25 years ago. Justices reversed an appeals court ruling that threw out Fernando Belmontes' death sentence because the trial judge misled jurors who were considering whether to give Belmontes the death penalty.
  • refused to consider a case in which Qwest Communications International Inc. had been ordered to produce 220,000 pages of documents to shareholders in a civil securities fraud lawsuit. Qwest attorneys had argued the documents were protected by attorney-client and work-product privilege.
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