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Home > Blog > Trial of the Century!
Out of Our Minds
Tuesday, February 28, 2006 3:18 PM
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.


2 comments

jeff angus - 3/1/2006 1:55:15 PM
An observation of an overarching cultural trend

--In a world where American Idol (fake sub-professional quality talent at their craft) can blow away viewership for Olympians (by definition, the most elite-talented at their craft in the world)

-- In a world where the dominant gov't uses classic marketing theory to (knowingly) edge aside facts to market a war it feels it needs to fight for other reasons

-- in a world where 10x people play a video game of skiing compered to those who actually go out skiing

-- In a world where a fellow sees nothing hinkey about marketing a novel as memoirs

-- In a world where experts market privatised water systems as a customer service boon while over 99% polled customers of privatised water systems believe they're getting inferior customer service

-- (insert 100 other parallel examples)...

Historians are suing a novelist for fictionalizing an historical account.

They are merely the caboose of this trend I elaborated to death. My wife was listening to BBC radio and heard another legal angle I haven't found elsewhere. Apparently, it's more than the 'architecture' -- apparently they've claimed it was their untested hypothesis/theory that was cloned for profit.

Okay, interesting point. As a former journalist, I still want to say to them, 'It's a frelling novel, dudes. FICTION, you know'.

BUT
given the state of the culture's need to escape the friction of reality and supercede it with the fiction of illusion (classic Ghost Dance pattern), this interelated constellation of events/trends forms a clear pattern.

There ARE counter-reactions. I consider your mag one of them --
not in the sense that you're marketing hard reality, but that *I suspect* the
dominant segment of your readership are people who are taking a different
tack in coping with what I referred to as 'the friction of reality'.
Jerrome - 2/28/2006 9:19:29 PM
If that's not a publicity stunt by the authors of a no-name book to cash in on the fame of the big-shot novelist, I don't know what is.

My only question is why not sue Brown as well? Doesn't he have deep pockets and wouldn't he be the guy with intent? Is this a British law thing?

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