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Da Vinci Code Author Sued 591

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the prior-art-in-my-head dept.
riptalon writes "Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, is being sued in the UK for using ideas from a previous non fiction book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in his novel. The Bangkok Post states that 'The question the court is facing is whether you can copyright an idea, a conjecture.'"
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Da Vinci Code Author Sued

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  • Can using a book as a research source be considered copyright infringement when you cite said work as a source?
    • No it can not.
      Also you can not (c) and idea AFAIK, nor should you be able to. We already have issues with Patents on Ideas.
      With that, I'm off to patent copyrighting patentable ideas to sue the real patent holder with over infringement of something or other.
      -nB
    • There was a saying among students I went to college with : "Copying from a single source is called plagiarism, copying from multiple source is called research"
    • I can't believe citations would make any difference in this case. This is fiction. You can make the stuff up. Sure you want to dispel disbelief. So you put in common knowledge, and you talk to people, and read books trying to make the fiction believable. that's just part of the art of story telling.

      You can't possibly cite every book that might have a fact in it that some fictional character in a book might state. Give me a break. When was the last time you saw a list of citations in a work of fiction

      • People are just trying to steal money from the author.

        It's becoming a pretty common kind of lawsuit. JK Rawlings was sued by some obvious crooked bastard a few years ago. Hopefully the English court not only rejects this suit but makes the fucking prick who brought pay through the nose. The time really has come to start reigning in these bastards who sit around like carrion birds waiting for a juicy morsel. Perhaps by rewarding to the object of the suit all the damages the complainaint demanded.

    • Editors DO SOME WORK (Score:4, Informative)

      by MountainMan101 (714389) on Monday February 27, 2006 @07:20PM (#14812776)
      Dan Brown is not being sued.
      RandomHouse, the publisher is being sued.
  • authors, the events described in the book are factual. Since facts cannot be copywritten, (last time I checked), that should mean they are out of luck. Given the amount of historical fiction on the market, I seriously hope this gets shot down. Unless Dan Brown plagarized or something.
  • "The modern novel should be largely a work of reference." -- Flann O'Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds
  • Fact? Or Fiction? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:56PM (#14812552) Journal
    Isn't the problem for the authors of "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" that they claim their book is fact? If it were fiction, then they would probably have a viable copyright claim, but while they claim their book is fact, they have the problem that facts are not generally copyrightable. Ironic really!
    • by AeroIllini (726211)
      If it were fiction, then they would probably have a viable copyright claim, but while they claim their book is fact, they have the problem that facts are not generally copyrightable.

      So? The movie "Fargo" claimed to be fact, too, and the MPAA keeps telling me that I can't copy it freely, even though it's a true story.

      Copyright refers specifically to an implimentation. I am free to make a movie about a car salesman in North Dakota who tries to kidnap his own wife for the ransom money from his rich father-in-l
  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:56PM (#14812555)
    I say it's a damn good thing most people don't TRY to, especially on ideas that are based in history and mythology...Where would the Fantasy genre be if Tolkien had copyrighted most of his "ideas" instead of only his books?
    • Where would the Fantasy genre be if Tolkien had copyrighted most of his "ideas" instead of only his books?

      We are lucky I guess when he wrote it there was not a publishing version of the MPAA or RIAA vigorously defending its copywrite holders works.

      The law suits would have been funny though,

      "So Mr Author, please explain the difference between your version of a high elf compared to the referance of Mr Tolkien's works, and we don't care how much of difference its total life points or what its modifier
    • As far as the Tolkien Estate (a corporation of lawyers whose sole reason for existence is to 'defend' Tolkien's copyrights) is concerned, he did copyright his ideas. And everything else in the books even if he didn't invent it. They sued TSR multiple times over things like 'orc' event though the word is much, much older than Tolkien. The name Gandalf is well known to be from the Eldar Eddas, but some guy trying to make a living as a clown named Gandalf got sued and sued and sued until he finally had to cave
      • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by orac2 (88688)
        Sort of like George Lucas thinking that he invented science fiction and suing everyone he spots making too much money.

        You're refering to the (original) Battlestar Galactica law suit aren't you?
    • Where would the Fantasy genre be if Tolkien had copyrighted most of his "ideas" instead of only his books?

      Several of his books weren't copyrighted in the US, the first edition of the LOTR series was ruled public domain and he wound up heavily editing the second edition to make it copyrightable. Ace Books published an unauthorized (by him) version of the first edition at one point, though they discontinued it when several of their prominent authors threatened to leave the publishing house for good if they k
    • Where would the Fantasy genre be if Tolkien had copyrighted most of his "ideas"

      He stole his best ideas from the Icelandic Edda sagas, just as Wagner did.

  • Fairly ironic because that very book is referenced in the Davinci Code. I bet that sales of it increased with the popularity of The Davinci Code.

    Still, everyone is out to make a buck...

    Sadly, The Davinci Code was not even that good, but the controversey certanly made it popular.
    • Sadly, The Davinci Code was not even that good, but the controversey certanly made it popular.
      I know what you mean.

      I bought three copies. One for me, one for Satan, and one more because Jesus couldn't stop me from buying the first two.

      Fine, just kidding. I'm waiting for the movie.
    • I bought it. I read it. It was a quick read and light on the mind.

      So I bought "Angels and Demons" by him. He has the exact same style in that book. I instantly knew who the good guys were and who the "secret" bad guy was.

      It's like a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mystery for adults.
    • The sales, according to the article, have already increased, and that is most likely the root cause for the lawsuit. "His book sold more than ours and ours is similar!" So...Hey, lets get some "free" press and sue him!
    • If you want to read a really good grail conspiracy theory, read Foucalt's Pendulum [amazon.com]
      I think Name of the Rose is another, I didn't read it. Eco's a very thick writer, with plenty of big words. Great sense of humor as well, I really enjoyed Pendulum.
  • The premise of HBHG is too similar to the DVC to be happenstance. But if you ask me the real insult is that Dan Brown uses one of the last names of one of the authors of HBHG (Richard Leigh) as the first name of one of his characters (Sir Leigh Teabing). Makes it seem like an explicit nod to the original, or the middle finger, depending upon your point of view.
    • Who cares if it's a middle finger or an homage? Are we actually going to penalize artists for using other sources as inspiration, or even as the roots of ideas, when they don't actually violate copyright in the true sense of it? What if I thought that DVC did a crappy job on the topic? Do I have to go to Dan Brown for permission to talk about it? That's pretty absurd...

      If I made an all powerful comic book character with one mineral-related (sure, radation-related, but, if you jumped out of your chair to
      • If I played music constructed of only three chords and the endless whining brought on by a distaste for my middle-class parents, would I be sued by Green Day?

        Nah, it'll be a class-action brought by Green Day, Avril Lavigne, Blink 187, hell.. the whole "punk" section of your local teenie-bopper record store :)
    • With all due respect, that's bull. It's been said before, HBHG presents this as a historical fact and as such can't be copyrighted. They did their research, this is what they found, they presented it. They did not invent it. This is rather like whoever first wrote a biography of Stalin sueing every filmmaker and every author who has used Stalin in his/her work.

      It's a PR gag, that's all it is. Sales of HBHG will shoot upwards, they get back in everyone's minds, never mind the lost case.

      As for the middle-fing
      • Actually, the authors of HNHG *did* invent the junk they published. It was published as fact but was really mostly just a bunch of concoctions.

        Interpreting where the law falls on borrowing from fiction which claims to be fact is way outside my skills sweet spot. :)
        • Couldn't Dan Brown then sue them in turn for entrapment? :) Presenting fiction as a fact so that other people use that idea, then sue them when they do? :)

          And every bookshop could sue for the costs it takes to move the book from the non-fiction section to the fiction section, the publishers could sue for being intentionally misled (or whatever you call that). And for icing on the cake, the church could probably excommunicate the lot of them. Not to mention the fact that the Big Boss probably doesn't like
        • Actually, the authors of HNHG *did* invent the junk they published. It was published as fact but was really mostly just a bunch of concoctions.

          Not really, they were following a trial left by Pierre Plantard, founder of the Priory of Sion. Plantard went about planting fake evidence to bolster the absurd claim that his secret society had been around for at least 300 years.

          Plantard invented the grail thing, the idea that Jesus was not crucified, married Mary Magdalen and went to live in France. He also bor

      • It's a PR gag, that's all it is. Sales of HBHG will shoot upwards, they get back in everyone's minds, never mind the lost case.

        Those were also my thoughts when I read the article. The last two sentences confirmed it.

        FTFA:
        The legal action has seen The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail shoot up the Amazon.co.uk bestseller chart from number 173 at lunchtime, to 102 by 2.30pm and was at 53 late this afternoon.

        The case is expected to last two weeks.
    • by Zocalo (252965)
      "Teabing" is also an acronym of "Baigent", the surname of the co-author of HBHG. I think that makes it pretty clear that Dan Brown wasn't trying to pretend that he had come up with an original idea about Jesus and Mary Magdalene and was giving them a nod. Frankly, this smacks of someone trying to cash in on Dan Brown's success, but even so, it's going to be interesting trying to watch a judge try and place a line in the sand about how much of an idea can be borrowed without infringing on copyright should
      • by stubear (130454)
        100% of an idea may be used, it's the expression of the idea which bears copyright protection. Why is this such a diccifult concept to understand? Most of the arguments against copyright from the slashbots would go away if you simply understood this simple point (the rest would go away if they understood that copying is distribution and while it may or may nto deprive the author of anything, it this violation which is being contested, not whether they lost any money).
    • Actually, Dan Brown used two out of three of HBHG's authors names in the character "Leigh Teabing". Didn't you think Teabing was a weird name?

      Richard Leigh
      Michael Baigent

      Leigh + Baigent = Leigh Teabing.

      Poor Henry Lincoln must feel left out.
    • The premise of HBHG is too similar to the DVC to be happenstance.

      And the problem with that would be exactly what? Almost all great art--music, theater, literature, TV, SciFi, etc. has been created by copying and improving what has come before. Where do you think Shakespeare's plays come from? Bach's music? Mozart's operas? Babylon 5 and Star Trek plots? Even the most famous artists stand on the shoulders of generations of giants.

      I guess your comment demonstrates what is wrong with IP law: not only ha
  • it's not art. Art is something the human mind fabricated. So the original author can decide whether he wants to drop the suit or admit that he fabricated the facts (i.e. lied).

    If the latter, the author of the novel can claim bona fide and the suit gets rejected regardless.
  • I read "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" quite some time ago. Some of the theories are quite interesting. Others are "out there". This was not the first book written on the subject, just the first popular one. It caused quite a stir when it first came out. I read "The DaVinci Code" a couple of years ago. It wasn't a BAD book, but it certainly wasn't worth all the hype. Brown is, in my opinion, a highly mediocre writer. The only thing that made the book popular is the theory he used as the mystery of the b
    • Using anagrams of "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" authors' names as a character in the book was, I'm confident, his way of honoring those writers.

      I doubt it. I think it's more likely yet another one of Brown's many puzzle-jokes that appear in The da Vinci Code as cheap devices for intrigue, and as clever marketing fluff.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday February 27, 2006 @07:01PM (#14812594)
    That is over-flowing with IP related litigous bastards.

    This must be the international full employment act for lawyers. Lawyers, of course, are *always* the big winners in these senseless squables.

    Maybe excessive litigation will send the UK right down the sh!ter, along with the USA. At least the USA won't have to go alone.
  • The question the court is facing is whether you can copyright an idea, a conjecture

    The judge thought of an idea to solve his/her dilemma. Using that idea it was clear that ideas and conjectures can be copyrighted. Unfortunately, that idea had been copyrighted and the judge could not use it.

    I think the concept copyright of an idea for a book is as ridiculous(if not more).
  • I thought these books were both by the same publisher; i.e. the same entity owns the commercial copyright to both.

    So even if one does infringe the copyright of the other, what is all the fuss about ? Is the publisher suing himself, and if so will the court not tell him to go away and stop wasting the court's time ?

    • No, authors own the copyrights of the works they produce (unless it's work-for-hire, which The Da Vinci Code certainly is not). That is why it the "Da Vinci Code Author Sued" and not the "Da Vinci Code Publisher Sued."
      • That is why it the "Da Vinci Code Author Sued" and not the "Da Vinci Code Publisher Sued."
        Actually, if you had RTFA, you would know, that
        They are suing their own publishers, Random House, which is also Mr Brown's publisher, for breach of copyright in the potentially far-reaching case.
    • Da Vinci Code: Doubleday
      HBHG: Bantam Dell ...both divisions of Random House.

      But then, the ultimate copyrights on the works (and liabilities for infringing on others) are held by the authors, not the publishers. See the inside covers of both. The (C) does not precede "Random House."
  • 'The question the court is facing is whether you can copyright an idea, a conjecture.' What's the huge question ? The answer is NO. Copyright is clearly only protects the specific EXPRESSION of ideas, thoughts, etc, not the idea itself. Besides, which, as the book documents supposed facts of history, those certainly cannot be copyrighted, period.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's a vastly richer narrative.
  • Lewis Perdue also claims his 1983 novel "The Da Vinci Legacy" was largely plagiarized by Brown. You can read 'Da Vinci Code' Plagiarism Lawsuits [about.com] for more details. If i look back far enough, surely I _must_ have written something I can sue them both for ;-)
  • I was expecting a lawsuit from Opus Dei, or maybe the Catholic church itself. I even thought there was an outside chance of a Fatwa from some Islamic cleric, but the last thing I expected was a suit from anyone connected with Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The whole book is practically an advertisement: "Go and buy Holy Blood, Holy Grail, only really clever people who can see through the lies read it, it's really good and everything in it is true!". I reckon they just want too get both book's names back in the pap
  • There was once a person who said that 1 in a million odds happen 7 times a day in New York city. The same is true about this book. They use esoteric pattern searches with random perbutrations to prove that there are hidden phrases and words in historic documents. After billions of tries on computers, they are sure to find something - to where they can say "see theres a hidden message here". In truth, it is just another way of using statistics to lie.
  • No.

    Next question? I'll be here all night.
  • by AxemRed (755470) on Monday February 27, 2006 @07:17PM (#14812746)
    However, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" is listed as fiction IIRC.

    Doesn't this mean that he will have to admit that the content of his book is completely fictional in order to sue Dan Brown for violoating his copyright?
  • Good! (Score:2, Funny)

    by salmacis2 (643788)
    Can he be sued for writing a really, really shitty novel?
  • This is just silly. No wonder they're litigating over in the U.K., as this "idea infringement" wouldn't make it over here in the US, even with our own nonsense copyright laws (DMCA anyone?). The copyright office clearly states you can't own copyright to an idea or method of doing something. That would be just a little too much -- even for people in the US.

    See:

    http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html #idea [copyright.gov]

    People need to stop wasting their time in the courts.
  • by mikers (137971)
    But you can patent it! [uspto.gov] (at least in the US)
  • God will get them for this!
  • This whole issue is predicated on the idea that Holy Blood Holy Grail was the first to come up with the idea. In fact, the Jesus/Magdalene marriage thing has been around for a long, long time. HBHG is not the first to come up with it; they just made it more popular. It's probably a moot point since the suit ought to be DOA anyway, but pretend it went forward for amoment: All Dan Brown has to do is cite the several dozen books prior to HBHG with the same idea.
  • by synx (29979)
    Ideas are not copyrightable, patentable or trademarkable.

    Patents cover physical inventions (and apparently software?) that represent the incarnation of an idea.
    Copyrights cover the written word "implementation" of an idea.

    Plagiarism generally isn't covered by the courts. Of course the old joke is "when you copy from one its plagiarism, when you copy from many it's research".

    This lawsuit shouldn't go anywhere - at least in an ideal (or even partially ideal) world.
  • The ideas have been around in one form or the other for hundreds of years. There's a competing theory that the two Marys are one in the same. This is a money grab pure and simple. Some religous sects actually have had the belief that Christ had a wife for many years. I've even heard references to him having children. The only thing earth shattering was putting it on paper.
  • Once upon a time in a galaxy just like this one Iassc Asimov wrote a fact article for Scientific American about the fierce tides one would encounter due to the gravitational gradient near a neutron star.

    A young science fiction author named Larry Niven (anyone ever heard of him?) read the article, wrote a fictional account of such an encounter called Neutron Star, and won awards and acclaim for it.

    While Asimov commented afterwards that this Nebula Award would have been his if he'd only been thinking fict

  • Since when is plagarism supposed to be protected? Why are we posting this on YRO? Every rational and reasonable person out there reallizes that Dan Brown's book is utter bunk, and those who disagree have some vested interest. First of all, the Priori of Sion was founded in France during the 1950s as a hoax. Also, portions of the book were plagarized from Leigh's and Baigent's work. What he did was take ownership of their work. This is a big no-no. On top of that, the book is biased against Christians, and e
    • by pla (258480) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:10PM (#14813161) Journal
      Also, portions of the book were plagarized from Leigh's and Baigent's work.

      One slight problem - Plaguerism does not equal copyright infringement. It commits an academic offense. Not legal, ethical.

      As a writer of fiction, Brown has no obligation to give two shakes of a rat's ass about plaguerism. Now, he might want the world to take his writing a bit more seriously than "mere" fiction, in which case he has only hurt himself (if you can include "written a best seller that spawned a sure-blockbuster" in the definition of "hurt"). But as for legal remedy? As much as I enjoyed HB:HG, I'd have to agree with another poster that Baigent and Leight most likely just want to cash in here.


      I have no patience for this untalented loser.

      I thought it a fairly cute book. Get over yourself, 'kay? You don't have to read it or like it, just as you don't have to read or like "The Cat In the Hat", either. But you'd look like an idiot criticising the grammar therein.
  • salman rushdie [wikipedia.org] sues a small danish newspaper [wikipedia.org] for using his idea of insulting islam and the prophet muhammad for the purpose of creating an international incident [wikipedia.org]

    his ip lawyers are currently debating whether or not the idea of insulting any religion is ip theft, or whether insulting the catholic church and insulting islam are two separate spheres of ip law. in which case dan brown may be sued next
  • by iamghetto (450099) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @12:46AM (#14814582) Homepage
    I've read the The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail (HBHG) 3 times. It's a book presented as fact or moreover, fact mixed with conjecture. The facts are readily available. Da Vinci's artwork, Rennes Le Chateau (sp?), documents from the French National archives, all of that. All that stuff is fact. What is conjecture is the idea that all of this ties together into a secret society that clandestinely is protecting a blood line with lineage that draws back to Jesus Christ. That is one hell of an idea that they came up with, and one that seemed to be theirs alone. Dan Brown in the Da Vinic code literally took all of their work, all of their ideas, and crafted a fictional story around it.

    I personally never understood with the Da Vinci Code was making so much money, when the real meat of matter at hand was all directly from the Holy Blood And The Holy Grail. I get the Da Vinci Code may have add some plot twists and intrigue, but by reading it you were also hearing the information from a second hand source, Dan Brown. Like I said, if people were so interested in the subject matter, it was lost on me a long time why people weren't reading HBHG.

    A book was written called The Coming Global Superstorm (by Art Bell & Whitley Strieber) that was later adapted into The Day After Tomorrow. If someone rehashed all the new ideas -DIRECTLY- from Art Bell's book, released it as their own book and sold their book as movie to some studio, wouldn't Art Bell be entitled to some of the proceeds from that studio? They are using his ideas, just with a pretty bow on it.

    If you think of an idea as a patent... you can't just go stealing a patent, and a patent is an idea that you can develop to make money. If someone comes up with an idea that is originally there own, aren't they the ones entitled to make money off of it???

    Dan Brown's book would literally be nothing if he hadn't stolen every juicy tidbit in it from the HBHG, and for that I think the writers of HBHG should be compensated.

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