Pop Culture

Judge rejects claims in ‘Da Vinci’ suit

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.”

The ruling will allow a film based on the book and starring Tom Hanks to open as scheduled on May 19.

Smith said the plaintiffs 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.

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.”

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.

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

“We never believed it should have come to court and frequently tried to explain why to the claimants,” said Gail Rebuck, chief executive of Random House Ltd.

Leigh and Baigent may have to pay costs that legal experts estimate will top $1.75 million.

‘No copyright in ideas’Brown’s victory was widely anticipated by lawyers because copyright protects the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself.

“There is no copyright in ideas,” said Mark Stephens, a lawyer specializing in media law and copyright issues. “It’s just about how words are expressed.”

“If the verdict were in favor of the plaintiffs, the judge (would) have rewritten the law of copyright.”

The case drew a packed crowd of journalists, Brown fans and theological revisionists to London’s neo-Gothic High Court last month.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Neil P. Mockford / GC Images

    Image: Celebrity Sightings On The Set Of 'A Hundred Streets' - August 8, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

  • Image: Celebrity Sightings On The Set Of 'A Hundred Streets' - August 8, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Idris Elba

    Actor Idris Elba seen on the set of :A Hundred Streets" on Aug. 8 in London.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of RADiUS-TWC's "The One I Love" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass

    Actors Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass arrive at the premiere of RADIUS-TWC's "The One I Love" at the Vista Theatre on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of RADiUS-TWC's "The One I Love" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nick Kroll

    Actor Nick Kroll arrives at the premiere of RADIUS-TWC's "The One I Love" at the Vista Theatre on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson

    Actors Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson arrive at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Cast member D'Arcy poses at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" in Hollywood

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    James D'Arcy

    James D'Arcy arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: BESTPIX: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Arrivals

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Julianne Hough

    Actress Julianne Hough arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Arrivals

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Hannah Simone

    Actress Hannah Simone arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nina Dobrev

    Actress Nina Dobrev arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nicole Murphy, Brandy Norwood

    TV personality Nicole Murphy and singer Brandy Norwood attend The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception at W Hollywood on Aug. 7 in Hollywood.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Tara Reid

    Actress Tara Reid attends The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception at W Hollywood on Aug. 7 in Hollywood.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: "Phoenix" Opening Night

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    James Wirt, Julia Stiles

    Actors James Wirt and Julia Stiles stand on stage during the opening night curtain call for "Phoenix" at the Cherry Lane Theatre on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: "Phoenix" Opening Night

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    AnnaSophia Robb

    Actress AnnaSophia Robb attends the opening night performance of "Phoenix" at the Cherry Lane Theatre on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Madame Tussauds New York To Unveil New, Never-Before-Seen Selena Gomez Wax Figure

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Selena Gomez

    A boy gives the wax figure of Selena Gomez a kiss at the unveiling of the new new, never-before-seen Selena Gomez wax figure at Madame Tussauds New York on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Chris Martin Visits "The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Chris Martin

    Chris Martin of Coldplay performs during the Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show at Z100 Studio on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Apple Store Soho Presents: Meet the Actors: Michael Fassbender And Domhnall Gleeson - "Frank"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Michael Fassbender

    Actor Michael Fassbender attends "Meet the Actor" at Apple Store Soho on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Mickey Rourke

    Actor Mickey Rourke is seen at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Jordana Brewster

    Actress Jordana Brewster waves outisde of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: G. Garvin Live

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Keshia Knight Pulliam

    Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam attends G. Garvin Live at Buckhead Theatre on Aug. 7 in Atlanta.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Reese Witherspoon

    Actress Reese Witherspoon is seen on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Miley Cyrus

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Miley Cyrus

    Singer Miley Cyrus performs in concert at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 7 in Nashville.

    AP / AP
  • Image: 67th Locarno Film Festival - Day 2

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Melanie Griffith

    Actress Melanie Griffith attends a press conference during the 67th Locarno Film Festival on Aug. 7 in Locarno, Switzerland.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Lily Allen

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Lily Allen

    Singer Lily Allen performs in concert at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 7 in Nashville.

    AP / AP
  • Image: "The Expendables 3" Paris Photocall At Cinema UGC Normandie

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    'Expendables 3'

    The stars of "Expendables 3," from left, Kellan Lutz, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes attend "Expendables 3" at Cinema UGC Normandie on Aug. 7 in Paris.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Meet The FilmMakers: "The Rover"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Robert Pattinson

    Actor Robert Pattinson speaks during the Meet The Filmmakers event for "The Rover" at Apple Store, Regent Street on Aug. 7 in London.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In New York City - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman

    Actors Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman are spotted filming Bateman's "The Family Fang" in Westchester, New York, on Aug. 7.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Africa: New Partnership Models For Growth

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Akon

    Grammy-nominated artist Akon, who is the founder of Akon Lighting Africa Project, discusses at the US-Africa Leaders Summit "Africa: New Parnership Models for Growth" news conference, held in Washington, DC, on Aug. 7, the progress that African heads of state have made.

    Getty Images / Getty Images

Smith retained an air of bluff good humor during sometimes esoteric hearings that touched on the Roman Emperor Constantine’s deathbed conversion to Christianity, the founding of the medieval warrior order the Knights Templar, the Merovingian dynasty allegedly descended from Jesus, and the perfidy of a seventh-century official named Pepin the Fat.

Many books usedThe publicity-shy Brown traveled from New Hampshire to testify on behalf of his publisher, and spent three days on the stand.

Brown acknowledged that he and his wife, Blythe, read “Holy Blood” while researching “Da Vinci,” but said they also used 38 other books and hundreds of documents, and that the British authors’ book was not crucial to their work.

Baigent and Leigh claimed Brown’s novel contains the same central themes as their book. But under cross-examination, Baigent conceded that it had been an exaggeration to say that Brown used “all the same historical conjecture” as their book.

Random House lawyer John Baldwin said that while many of the incidents in “The Da Vinci Code” had been described before, “no one has put them together, and developed and expressed them, in the way Mr. Brown did. That is why he has a best-seller.”

Thanks to the case, so do Baigent and Leigh. Their 24-year-old book is selling 7,000 copies a week in Britain, compared with a few hundred before the case began. Baigent’s new book, “The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History,” has an initial print run of 150,000 copies in the United States.

Their book is published by Random House.

TOP