Dan Brown, author of mega-seller The Da Vinci Code, is being sued by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, the co-authors of the non-fiction book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Baigent, Leigh, along with co-author Henry Lincoln, scored a bestseller in the early 1980’s with their theory that the direct descendent of Jesus and Mary Magdalene live in France. Holy Blood, Holy Grail has been said to inform Brown’s fictional story of his “symbologist” protagonist who discovers the explosive secret. Baigent and Leigh are suing for breach of copyright.
The Google Book Search fracas goes to immediate low the backburner for now. For if Baigent and Leigh win their suit, it puts something into question that fiction writers have been using freely for 500 years: can themes and ideas be copyrighted?
Most legal opinions weighing in on the case say that Brown is standing on firm footing. “You can’t copyright an idea,” says David Hooper, a solicitor specializing in copyright law. Hooper argues that unless Brown ripped off passages of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Baigent and Leigh don’t have a case.
Baigent and Leigh charge that in his thriller, Brown has gone further than appropriating their “theory” that Jesus’ descendants live in Europe. They argue that Brown lifted their entire theory and mapped it onto his own.
You know what? I think they have a case there. Whether or not they will win the suit is another question. [Read more…]