Saturday, April 08, 2006

Da Vinci Code Copyright Case [Baigent and Leigh v. Random House]

Baigent and Leigh v Random House [Summary of Judgment]
Neutral Citation Number: [2006] EWHC 719 (Ch)
Case No: HC04C03092
Royal Courts of Justice Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Date: 07/04/2006
Before :
Between :
1. Michael Baigent 2. Richard LeighClaimants
The Random House Group LimitedDefendant
Mr Jonathan Rayner James QC and Mr Andrew Norris (instructed by Orchard Brayton Graham LLP) for the Claimants
Mr John Baldwin QC and Mr James Abrahams (instructed by Arnold & Porter(UK) LLP) for the Defendant
Hearing dates: 27th, 28th February, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 20th March 2006
Peter Smith J :
The Claimants' Claim fails and is dismissed.
The reasons for the dismissal are as follows:
2.1 Holy Blood Holy Grail does not have a Central Theme as contended by the Claimants: it was an artificial creation for the purposes of the litigation working back from the Da Vinci Code.
2.2 Holy Blood Holy Grail has much more to it than the Central Themes as expressed so that the Claimants contention that HBHG has very little apart from the Central Themes is not correct.
2.3 Even if the Central Themes were copied they are too general or of too low a level of abstraction to be capable of protection by copyright law.
2.4 The Central Themes are merely a selective number of facts and ideas artificially taken out of HBHG for the purpose of the litigation.
2.5 There is no "Architecture" or "Structure" to be found in HBHG or the Central Themes as contended by the Claimants nor has Dan Brown infringed any such Architecture or Structure or substantially copied HBHG when he wrote DVC although it is clear it was used to write the Langdon/Teabing lectures.
2.6 The Claimants have failed to establish at least 4 or possibly 5 of the Themes are either in HBHG or in DVC which further weakened their case.
Accordingly there is no copyright infringement either by textual copying or non textual copying of a substantial part of HBHG by means of copying the Central Themes.
The majority of the language copying Claims were established but they are not claimed to be textual infringement of the copyright in HBHG and so do not assist the Claimants.
A comparison of the language of the Central Themes with the text of HBHG and DVC compared by reference to the VSS shows copying of the text from HBHG into DVC. However this is not alleged to a copyright infringement either so does not assist the Claimants. Such copying cannot amount to substantial copying of the text of HBHG and the Claimants have never said it does.
When Dan Brown wrote the Synopsis for DVC he did not use HBHG but used other sources provided to him by Blythe Brown. However his contention that neither he nor his wife acquired or read HBHG until very late in the writing process is rejected. Blythe Brown probably acquired it no later than November 2000 and was using it for research although Dan Brown either did not know that or did not use the material when writing the Synopsis.
Dan Brown did not use HBHG when he wrote the first 190 Pages delivered in March 2002 but Blythe could still have been working with it then (whether he knew or not).
When the final part of HBHG was worked on from March - August 2002 the historical lectures by Langdon/Teabing were written. The character of Teabing was created then plainly from HBHG and the annotations on the Brown copy of HBHG are the most extensive of all the books and the text can be traced through into several research items of Blythe Brown and the text of DVC. The lectures were written using HBHG mainly but possibly with the assistance to a lesser degree of the earlier books. HBHG was the primary book used for these lectures.
No good reason for not calling Blythe Brown was given. Her evidence could have assisted significantly in explaining how various documents were created and how the text of DVC in respect of the lectures came to be written. Any doubts that could have been explained by her were accordingly to be resolved in favour of the Claimants. However her evidence was not crucial to the primary decision on infringement of copyright.
None of this amounts to copying of HBHG or substantial copying of it (whether textual or non textual) nor of the Central Themes and does not amount to an infringement of the claimants copyright in the book.
This case has not been about Mr Brown's skill and reputation as a thriller writer and should have no impact on it whatsoever.
The Hon Mr Justice Peter Smith
7th April 2006
Rodney D. Ryder

No comments: