Final chapter for 'The Da Vinci Code' case to unfold in London court today

Monday, March 20, 2006

LONDON -- A three-week long trial that has swung from the religious mysteries in "The Da Vinci Code" to the more tedious world of copyright law approaches its climax today.

Attorneys for Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors who claim the novelist Dan Brown "appropriated the architecture" of their 1982 nonfiction book "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail," are to begin their closing arguments in Britain's High Court.

Baigent and Leigh are suing Random House, publishers of "The Da Vinci Code," for copyright infringement.

Both "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" explore theories -- dismissed by theologians -- that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, the couple had a child and that the bloodline survives.

On Friday, attorneys for Random House argued that the case of Baigent and Leigh was in tatters, saying Brown's work gathered a number of incidents and put them together in a unique way, which was why he had a hit novel.

Brown has acknowledged that he and his wife, Blythe Brown, read "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" while researching "The Da Vinci Code," but said they also used 38 other books and hundreds of documents, and that the British authors' book had not been crucial.

"The ideas are of too general a nature to be capable of copyright protection," said John Baldwin, a lawyer for Brown.

Brown spent three days on the witness stand defending his book and his research methods. "The Da Vinci Code" follows the fictional professor Robert Langdon as he investigates the murder of an elderly member of an ancient society that guards dark secrets about the story of Jesus and the quest for the Holy Grail.

If Baigent and Leigh succeed in securing an injunction to bar the use of their material, they could hold up the scheduled May 19 film release of "The Da Vinci Code," starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Sony Pictures says it plans to release the film as scheduled.

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