'Da Vinci Code' Verdict Nears
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Gnostic Christian scriptures are also part of the plot of a bestselling text from today, the Da Vinci Code. And today, a British judge delivers a verdict in a court case involving that book. At issue is whether the author Dan Brown plagiarized the work of two other authors. They wrote a nonfiction book setting forth the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene produced a child, which is a major theory of the Da Vinci Code.
NPR's Rob Gifford is following this case. And, Rob, do you care to speculate on the likely outcome?
ROB GIFFORD reporting:
Oh, I couldn't possibly go in for any wild speculation, Steve. But I'll tell you what the copyright lawyers have been talking to have been saying. And that is that the money is really on Dan Brown. The key issue here really is that the two authors, Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent, who wrote, The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, in the 1980s, they wrote what they say is a work of history. Dan Brown wrote what his lawyers and he say is a novel.
And the key issue, Dan Brown's lawyers say, is that if you have a work of history, that's very different from a novel and that there are novels always based on histories and that that is not in any way plagiarism.
INSKEEP: Now Dan Brown's wife was an issue in this trial because she helped research the Da Vinci Code, right?
GIFFORD: That's right. Blythe Brown has been fundamental to Dan Brown's success. She has admitted that she does a lot of his research for him. The key issue here is that he says that she did not read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail before he wrote the synopsis for his book. And, therefore, he admits that both he and she read Baigent and Lee's book, but not before most of his novel was fleshed out. And the key issue is, really, whether the judge believes that.
INSKEEP: Rob, what's at stake here?
GIFFORD: Well, there is, of course, some money at stake here, a lot of money. There's legal costs to start with, approaching $2 million, which the loser is going to have to pay. If Dan Brown loses, he's going to have to pay all sorts of damages to these other authors.
But I think lawyers that I've spoken to suggest that there's a bigger issue here of just setting a precedent. If Baigent and Lee win and Dan Brown loses, that's going to set a precedent for other historical novelists. It's going to be very, very difficult and historical novelists are going to have be very, very careful in going to works of history to write novels in future. So the precedent, in some ways, is bigger than the damages that might come out of it.
INSKEEP: NPR's Rob Gifford, in London, giving us the history of this court case. Rob, thanks very much.
GIFFORD: Thanks very much, Steve.