Final chapter of Da Vinci Code case unfolds in court

A three-week long trial that has swung from the religious mysteries in The Da Vinci Code to the more humdrum world of copyright law approaches its climax in a British court on Monday.

Lawyers for Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors who claim millionaire novelist Dan Brown “appropriated the architecture” of their 1982 non-fiction book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, are to begin their closing arguments in High Court.

Baigent and Leigh are suing Random House, publishers of The Da Vinci Code, for copyright infringement.

Both books explore theories—dismissed by theologians—that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, the couple had a child and that the bloodline survives.

On Friday, lawyers for Random House argued that the case of Baigent and Leigh was in tatters. Lawyer John Baldwin said Brown’s work gathered a number of incidents and put them together in a unique way, which was why he had a hit novel.

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

“The ideas are of too general a nature to be capable of copyright protection,” Baldwin argued. “The claimants’ claim relates to ideas at a high level of generality, which copyright does not protect.”

Brown spent three days on the witness stand defending his book and his research methods.
The Da Vinci Code follows fictional professor Robert Langdon as he investigates the murder of an elderly member of an ancient society that guards dark secrets about the story of Jesus and the quest for the Holy Grail.

If Baigent and Leigh succeed in securing an injunction to bar the use of their material, they could hold up the scheduled May 19 film release of The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Sony Pictures says it plans to release the film as scheduled. - Sapa-AP

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