LONDON, United Kingdom (AP) — A British court Tuesday moved from the mystic realm of Knights Templars, Masons and the sacred feminine to a more arcane world of footnotes, sourcing and underlining as Dan Brown defended his blockbuster novel, “The Da Vinci Code.”
The author was on the stand for the second day defending his work against a copyright infringement suit brought by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of a 1982 nonfiction book, “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.”
The suit is not against Brown, but his publisher Random House, which also published “The Holy Blood and 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.
In the months after the publication of “The Da Vinci Code,” which has sold more than 40 million copies, Brown said he had to go back to his research to answer questions posed by readers while on tour.
Among the books he consulted was “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.”
“I am a novelist, not a historian,” Brown said. “I needed to go back, so I could defend the work.”
Brown, who published two earlier novels, said he was nearly overwhelmed by response to the religious thriller.
“What happened when ‘The Da Vinci Code’ came out was totally foreign to me,” Brown said.
“When I published ‘Angels and Demons’ I would go to bookstores and give talks, and there would be five or six people in the audience — and three people were bookstore owners who had taken off their badges so I wouldn’t feel bad.
“When ‘The Da Vinci Code’ came out, I was suddenly talking to 300 or 400 people.”
On Monday, Brown said he was shocked at the copyright infringement claim.
However, he acknowledged that he could not always recall exact dates of milestones in the creation of his novel. Both books explore theories — dismissed by theologians — that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute but Jesus’ wife, the couple had a child and the bloodline survives.
Source: Dismantling The Da Vinci Code By Sandra Miesel, Crisis, Sep. 1, 2003
“It’s as if you’ve asked me to go back five years or 10 years and asked me not only what I got for Christmas, but what order I opened the presents,” he told Jonathan Rayner James, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Random House lawyers argue the ideas in dispute are so general they are not protected by copyright.
In his 69-page witness statement released Monday, Brown acknowledged reading Baigent and Leigh’s book while writing “The Da Vinci Code” — along with 38 other books and more than 300 documents submitted as evidence to the court.
He said Baigent and Leigh’s work “was not a crucial or important text in the creation of the framework of ‘The Da Vinci Code.’
Brown also said he had fully acknowledged his debt to the two authors by having a character in “The Da Vinci Code” refer to the earlier book. He even named a character Sir Leigh Teabing — an anagram of Baigent and Leigh.
The third author of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” Henry Lincoln, is not involved in the case. A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Paul Sutton, refused to say why he was not participating.
Lincoln, who is in his 70s and reportedly in poor health, could not be reached for comment.
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