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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
The Da Vinci Code case judgement
Court artist Elizabeth Cook's impression of Mr Justice Peter Smith giving his judgement
Mr Justice Peter Smith gave a long and detailed judgement on the case
The Da Vinci Code case at London's High Court has concluded, rejecting two writers' claims that the best-selling book's author Dan Brown infringed the copyright of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

Here are extracts from Mr Justice Peter Smith's ruling.


ON THE BACKGROUND TO THE CASE

By virtue of various mergers and acquisitions Random publishes both The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code.

It is a testament to cynicism in our times that there have been suggestions that this action is nothing more than a collaborative exercise designed to maximise publicity for both books. It is true that the book sales of both books have soared during the course of the trial.

I am not in a position to comment on whether this cynical view is correct but I would say that if it was such a collaborative exercise Mr Baigent and Mr Brown both went through an extensive ordeal in cross examination which they are likely to remember for some time.

ON THE HOLY BLOOD AND THE HOLY GRAIL

Mr Leigh expressed the view that there were certain key points among those which were uniquely theirs.

The unique ones he suggested were Jesus' bloodline flowing in to the Merovingian line and second that the Grail was not only a thing or a phenomenon but was also a person and the bloodline.

The major conjectural point seems to me to be the merger of the bloodline in the Merovingian line.

ON DAN BROWN AND THE DA VINCI CASE

There were exchanges in October about why Mr Brown chose the surname Sauniere and why he chose the surname Teabing.

The latter is not particularly mysterious: it is part of an anagram of the two Claimants' names.

It is self evident that Mr Brown looked at The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail before The Da Vinci Code was finished - he accepts that.

It is equally self evident that Blythe Brown looked at it extensively.

The original copy as disclosed contains numerous annotations and markings mostly by her, but also by Mr Brown. Of all the books used it is the most heavily annotated.

I have already observed the anagram in the name Teabing as being another example of how The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail was clearly in the mind of Mr Brown when he finalised his book.

ON DAN BROWN'S EVIDENCE

In the synopsis for The Da Vinci Code he says it was written long before they bought or consulted The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. I have considerable difficulties with that statement.

I cannot accept the book was acquired at a much later time if it is going to be seriously contended that extensive research is gone into before The Da Vinci Code is written.

What is extraordinary about Mr Brown's evidence is that he appears to have acquired all of the books that cover this area apart from the one that is described as essential reading.

The overall position in my view is that the most compelling pointer to the fact that Mr Brown did not use The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail to write the Synopsis is his well-made point that if he had it would have been in the bibliography.

My view is that the book did not feature at that stage, but I am firmly of the view that it was the essential tool for the Langdon/Teabing Lectures which were written at a later stage.

ON MICHAEL BAIGENT'S EVIDENCE

Mr Baigent was a poor witness. Those are not my words - they are the words of his own counsel in his written closing submissions.

Those words do not in my view do justice to the inadequacy of Mr Baigent's performance.

His evidence was comprehensively destroyed by the thorough and searching cross examination of Mr Baldwin QC for the defendant.

I can place no reliance on any part of his evidence.

ON THE NON-APPEARANCE OF BLYTHE BROWN AT THE TRIAL

It is quite clear that Mr Brown has not been able to provide all the answers as to the material which Blythe prepared for him.

Second I do not regard the reasons put forward in the third witness statement for her absence as satisfactory.

How DVC was researched and created is vital to the issues in this case.

Blythe Brown's role in that exercise is crucial and I do not accept that there are reasons of a credible nature put forward as to why she has not appeared to give evidence.

ON THE IMPACT OF BOTH BOOKS

Somewhat surprisingly in my view both sets of authors were apparently surprised at the storm of controversy that their books created. This can only be naivety if true.

I cannot believe that if books are going to be written which challenge vital tenets of the established church that they are not going to attract attention.

ON THE LITERARY MERITS OF THE DA VINCI CODE

As is usual with books that attract a lot of publicity they have attracted the wrath of the literary experts of the world.

Fortunately it is not part of my judgement to assess the literary worth of the books or even the truth behind them....

I suppose in the world of publication 40m buyers cannot be wrong.

ON THE IMPACT HIS JUDGEMENT COULD MAKE

There is nothing for example in this case, which if decided in the claimants' favour, would stultify creative endeavour, obtain a monopoly on ideas or historical information or create a precedent which extends the boundaries of copyright protection in sphere of literary works.

I believe that their work was genuinely and clearly acknowledged.

It is important to appreciate that the claimants do not claim a monopoly in respect of facts or ideas as expressed in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

ON THE THEMES IN BOTH BOOKS

Some items clearly come from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. Some items plainly do not.

Mr Brown's evidence is of no assistance because of his vagueness. The person who could have unlocked this complex area is Blythe Brown. She is not here.

I conclude that, in the main, the majority of the central themes were drawn from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail in a language sense, but it was not the sole source of Blythe Brown's efforts.

ON THE LANGUAGE USED IN BOTH BOOKS

There are grounds that Mr Brown copied language from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.

I do not accept they are evidence of copyright infringement by substantial copying whether textual or non-textual, as they are as I have said too general and too low level of abstraction.

I stress it is no part of the claimants' case that any language copying is a copyright infringement in respect of their book.

ON DAN BROWN'S WRITING AND BLYTHE BROWN'S RESEARCH

Blythe Brown provided the material for a chapter in The Da Vinci Code with The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail in her hands.

I do not accept he knew necessarily where she was obtaining her material form. I do not think for one minute he cross-checked his wife's work. That was her valuable input into the book.

The use of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail for copying of these generalised parts of the text is not of itself actionable.

THE VERDICT ON DAN BROWN'S EVIDENCE

He has presented himself as being a deep and thorough researcher for all of the books he produced.

The evidence in this case demonstrates that as regards The Da Vinci Code that is simply not correct with respect to historical lectures.

The major part of the writings of the lectures at a later stage have substantially come from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.

As he has taken matters at a general and low level of abstraction and he has only taken ideas and facts without any of the architecture, he has done nothing wrong.

It would be quite wrong if fictional writers were to have their writings pored over in the way The Da Vinci Code has been pored over in this case by authors of pretend historical books to make an allegation of infringement of copyright.

I accept that if that was allowed to happen it would have a serious impact on writing.

Mr Brown should not be denigrated because of the adverse findings I have made against him in respect of some aspects of his evidence. Nor should his book be criticised or his writings skills be criticised because of those matters. They reflect but a part of the overall package.

The package has proved to be extremely successful and like everything that is successful when one reads Mr Brown's evidence it seems very easy to do.

It was said in evidence that there is at least one book in every person. The skill of the great is always (in whatever area is being talked about) in making it all seem very easy.



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