Trial of the Century!
Kevin Salwen on Ethics
It may not be the O.J. trial but the Da Vinci Code case that opened yesterday in London might have almost as much brand cache. In it, the authors of the 1983 nonfiction book 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail' are contending that Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown swiped their ideas. They are not suing Brown, but Random House -- which not only published 'The Da Vinci Code' but also their own book.
The crux of the case is their argument is that Brown stole the 'architecture' of their book, that is the connections, not the details. Describing their work as 'a book of historical conjecture,' they say they are covered by copyright that was misappropriated.
Brown, for his part, admits that he consulted Holy Blood before writing his novel. In fact, one of the characters -- Sir Leigh Teabing -- has the book on his shelf in one scene; in addition, Brown cites the book in the Da Vinci Code as the most important book on the topic.
This case might be interesting for more than just the story of whether Dan Brown stole the authors' theory that Jesus survived the crucifixion, married Mary Magdalene and that their descendants are alive. If Random House loses, publishers are saying, it could chill many novelists who use fact-based situations. Stay tuned.