British Authors Sue Random House For Theft of Ideas

Posted on October 24, 2005

Dan Brown's lawyers are having a very good year. More authors are trying to get on The Da Vinci Code gravy train by claiming that Brown stole their ideas. The BBC reports:

Two authors are launching a High Court action against the publishers of The Da Vinci Code, which they say infringes upon their ideas. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are suing Random House, claiming the bestseller lifts from their 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. A High Court hearing will be held next week, followed by a trial next year. Random House was unavailable for comment on the claim that Brown stole the idea that Jesus had a child.

A spokeswoman for Baigent and Leigh said the authors had been struck by alleged similarities to their history book. She said: "The basis of their case is theft of intellectual property. "There are huge chunks of The Da Vinci Code which they say is lifted from their book." The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was recently reissued through Century, part of the Random House group. It features "cryptically coded parchments, secret societies, the Knights Templar" and links them to "a dynasty of obscure French kings" and the Holy Grail. It also claims that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a child together.

In August, Brown won a court ruling in New York against writer Lewis Perdue, who claimed The Da Vinci Code plagiarised elements of two of his novels, Daughter of God, published in 2000 and 1983's The Da Vinci Legacy. Perdue sought to block future distribution of the book and forthcoming film, as well as $150m (�84m) in damages, but the judge said any similarity was based on "unprotectable ideas".

We don't have a clue about British copyright law, but in the U.S. ideas are not protectable under copyright. And that particular theory has been espoused in numerous books over the years, many of which Brown cites in The Da Vinci Code as sources. So, unless these authors are claiming that Brown copied their books verbatim, they seem unlikely to win at trial. It's interesting that J.K. Rowling has also faced her share of similar claims: it's the ugly side of success.

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