Fiction and Fact
Jim Davila mentions an article in the London Times warning that The DaVinci Code film could be delayed over the lawsuit Dan Brown is facing from the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Jim wonders:
"Let me see if I have this straight. The author of a silly novel is being sued by the authors of a bogus 'nonfiction' book because the author used their bogus ideas? It's true that rubbish writing is copyrighted, but rubbish ideas? I'm not a lawyer and I know even less about British copyright law that American, but I cannot see how this case can have any merit. Arrangements of words are copyrighted, but ideas (and one of Brown's characters even credits Baigent's and Leigh's book in the novel) are not. If you violate copyright when you cite someone else's work and use their ideas (but not their words) for your own work, then all scientists and scholars would be in trouble."
This has been the irony all along. Here's an except from the review by Laura Miller I cited a few days ago (though I didn't cite this part):
"This puts both Brown and the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, in a tricky position. Baigent et al. have always maintained that the 'facts' supporting their theories are available to any dedicated scholar and that the theories themselves, while unconventional, have been seriously entertained by other 'experts'...
"Since Holy Blood, Holy Grail presents itself as nonfiction, it has been in its authors' interest to downplay how much of it is invented. However, if the 'research' and ideas in Holy Blood, Holy Grail are not the original creations of the book's authors, they become harder to copyright, and the possible infringement suit against Brown might be weakened. No one, after all, has a copyright on the facts surrounding Abraham Lincoln's assassination or the Treaty of Versailles...
"For Brown's part, it's to his advantage to insist that the farrago of lies and misrepresentations used to prop up the conspiracy theory in The Da Vinci Code (and, originally, in Holy Blood, Holy Grail) is part of the historical record or at least in general circulation..."
So here we have it: to the scholars Dan Brown pleads fiction, and please stop bothering him for his historical inaccuracies and wild revisionist fantasies; to the litigants and attorneys he pleads non-fiction, and please understand that he can use Baigent's ideas as legally as Anne Rice uses Tom Wright's. In any case, the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail haven't a leg to stand on, nor, for that matter, any shame.
UPDATE: Attorney Stephen Carlson weighs in on his blog, and in comments below.