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'Da Vinci Code' Author Wins Copyright Case


Gnostic Christian scriptures are also part of the plot of a bestselling text from today, the Da Vinci Code. And today, a British judge ruled that the author of that book, Dan Brown, did not plagiarize the work of two other authors. Their book, which was labeled nonfiction, set forth the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene produced a child, which is a major theory of the Da Vinci Code.

One person closely watching this case is David Hooper, he's an intellectual property lawyer in Britain and he's on the phone. And Mr. Hooper, can you remind us of what the charges were against Dan Brown?

Mr. DAVID HOOPER (intellectual properties lawyer, Reynolds, Porter, Chamberlain; London): Well, the suggestion was that Dan Brown, in writing The Da Vinci Code-which was a work of fiction-had lifted whole chunks of his book from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which was meant to be a historical work.

INSKEEP: And the judge said, No?

Mr. HOOPER: I think he was slightly critical of both parties. He thought that it was a pity that Dan Brown's wife, who had done most of the research on his book, didn't give evidence. And also, that it was a pity that one of the three authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a man called Lincoln-who would've said that he got the idea from someone else, himself-didn't give evidence either. So the judge had to make due on the evidence he had. It's a wonderful analysis that he's done, but at the end of the day he thought nothing at all of the claimant's case. And he has dismissed it, leaving them with an enormous legal bill.

INSKEEP: Was this an important case because Dan Brown's book, in addition to being a bestseller, was a work of historical fiction, which is a huge share of the publishing market?

Mr. HOOPER: Well, the interest of it, was that there wasn't direct copying-what they were saying was, you've taken the central theme of the book, or the architecture and structure of the book. It's always part of the law of copyright, that you can't copyright ideas. So, if the judge had found in favor of the claimants, it would've made writing of such books very much more difficult because people are always reworking ideas. And, in fact, the claimant's case was in a bit of a mess, the judge felt, because some of the central themes that they said that Dan Brown had nicked(ph) from their book, he said weren't in their book anyway-and that they kept changing the idea of what architecture and themes there were in the books. When you actually look at the origin of the theory, it seems to rest heavily on some French fraudster-a man who's now dead, called Pierre Plantard. So I say, all credit to Dan Brown for making a rattling(ph) good book of it.

INSKEEP: We got the central themes of this case from David Hooper of the firm Reynolds, Porter, Chamberlain in London. Thanks very much.

Mr. HOOPER: Pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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