So Dan Brown’s UK publishers - Random House - are being taken to court by the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail - Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent - who claim Brown stole their idea for his book.
I find this case wholly without merit. Of course Dan Brown took his ideas from Holy Blood, Holy Grail. He didn’t rub their noses in it – he playfully acknowledged it. Leigh and Bagent wrote a book proposing a thesis. Dan Brown wrote a thriller using those ideas. Leigh and Bagent didn’t come up with the characters, or plot, or the descriptions. They certainly have no copyright or patent on the ideas they suggest.
Writers use ideas of all varieties from sane to crazy in their books. It happens all the time. L. Sprague de Camp took Willy Ley’s speculations on the Babylonian sirrush from Ley’s article “The Sirrush of the Ishtar Gate” for his book The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate. He practically stole the title. Ley didn’t sue him, and had no case for it. Marion Zimmer Bradley lifted the idea for her “Dragon” in The Mists of Avalon from the book The Great Orm of Loch Ness, but that’s not actionable. Larry Niven stole the title for a science fiction story (and the idea) from a published scientific paper on “Using Infinite Rotating Cylinders for Time Travel”. No suing ensued. Historical novelists routinelt ransack the works of historians – sometimes relying heavily on the theories of a single historian.
I just think Leigh and Bagent see the reams of cash flowing into Brown’;s bank and want a piece of it.
Yeah… if it’s fine that THBATHG was an acknowledged source of ideas for the novel, then why is it not fine to name a character out of a semi-anagrammed combination of the authors?? Brown presumably wasn’t trying to hide the fact that there was a connection.
You certainly didn’t make the case that there was any actual plagiarism going on.
Thanks for sending us the story though, I got a chuckle out of it.
Just to clarify, I don’t personally think there’s a case to answer… I just find it amusing to think of Random House’s lawyers trying to argue that THBATHG was only a minor source, while desperately hoping no-one on the prosecution is any good at anagrams.
The way I understand it, nobody can own a historical idea. If a historian convinces us that Jesus had children, then we can all say it and all write it.
There must be a lot more to this case.
In any case, the authors of Holy Blood were the first to think up the idea of Jesus having children. A quick search on the internet finds a reference to M. Clermont Ganna in 1873 who discovered a tombstone of Simeon, son of Jesus. A Dr. Udley concludes: “In all probability Simeon was a son of Jesus and Martha and was that child who appeared at the crucifixion.”
Now, this all may be rubbish, it could be complete fiction, but that doesn’t matter because the idea came before Holy Blood, Holy Grail, so those authors cannot calim to be first.
I imagine the defence will claim that Da Vinci Code is satire: a novel, fiction, satirizes a work of (supposed) non-fiction. That gives them lots of leeway to copy and semi-copy. In that case, the Baigent > Teabing will help the defense, not the prosecution.
If DVC were as non-fictional as some of its readership believes, the author would definitely be in trouble for plagiarizing: you’re supposed to cite your sources. But most authors do research, and most acknowledge it with a nod to the helpful librarians at Podunk Village Library* rather than a complete list of footnoted sources.
By the way, I came up with the “maybe Jesus had kids” idea independently when I was eight, so I agree that there must be more to it.
*This is a dig at Dan Brown rather than helpful librarians.
It’s been a while since I read the book, but doesn’t Brown actually refer to the Holy Blood, Holy Grail book in the story? I know that I took it out of the library after I read the book and it was before everyone was on the bandwagon with shows and stuff. I want to say that I found out about the non-fiction reference while reading the story and, further, that it wasn’t even only in the bibliography because I’m not really one to read a bibliography. So, it’s not like it was not a well referenced source and, further, I’m wondering if it made for a nice opportunity to reprint the source work and sell a butt load of books.
I agree that the case is meritless. It would be like The Daily Mail suing John Lennon (if he were alive) over A Day in the Life.
I’m trying to think now of works that were directly inspired by non-fiction work, but I’m drawing a blank. Surely this is done a lot in Science Fiction.
With the movie coming out, what better way to get free news coverage? The author of tHBatHG gets to put his book forward as the “history”, and the DVC book/movie get a controversy. Totally a win-win outcome, no matter the final result of the lawsuit.
Not to defend Leigh and Baigent but their theory was not only that Jesus might have had kids. What was (as far as I know) original to them was the theory that the Holy Grail was an allegory for a bloodline descended from Jesus. That idea is what Brown used as the hook for his novel, but since L and B presented their theory as non-fiction and ostensibly journalistic, they have no ownership over it and it’s ridiculous for them to claim as some sort of creative property. That would be like Copernicus trying to sue anyone who writes a book where the earth goes around the sun.
They have no case at all, so the real puzzle is why they are taking this to court. In all the interviews I’ve seen on the news the copyright experts that they put on are clearly stunned that they’re doing this and are struggling to find polite enough words for the situation.
Dan Brown has been attracting a million meritless suits. See DaVinci Crock for a particular silly one.
No, the theory of the Sangreal, the holy blood, the Holy Grail, etc has been around for donkey’s years, most famously in the whole Rennes-le-Chateau
affair (priest in 19th century France suddenly becomes mysteriously wealthy, connected with something he found in the church, Mary Magdalene, Holy Grail, the line of Jesus, Priory of Sion, etc). It’s all there.