Two British authors are none too pleased with Da Vinci crackpot (hey, they're crackpots themselves), and have sued the bestselling author:
If you've read "The Da Vinci Code," you know author Dan Brown loved planting anagrams as clues in his best-selling thriller. But when he named a scholarly British character Sir Leigh Teabing, little did he know an anagram could bite back. "Leigh Teabing" is a play on the names of Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent, the two authors now suing Brown's British publisher, Random House U.K., for copyright infringement. Leigh and Baigent, along with Henry Lincoln (who did not join the lawsuit), are the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," a book of historical nonfiction first published in Britain in 1982. They claim Brown stole not only 15 core ideas from their book but took its "architecture"—how they connected the dots in their windy, speculative history of the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and the Priory of Sion, a secret society that clung to the heretical idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and began a bloodline of European royalty.
But Brown acknowledges using the book, even referencing it within The Da Vinci Code itself:
This is an unusual copyright case: the issue is not garden-variety plagiarism but to what extent a fiction writer can use material from a protected nonfiction source.
I understand the original authors' frustration, but I don't think they really have a leg to stand on here. Brown was open about building on their ideas, which is a common practice with 'scholarly' (I use the word accomodatively) works. If I wrote a novel set in World War II I might very well choose to use the findings or theories of a particular scholar. As long as I openly acknowledge that use, I think that would fall under fair use. Of course, British law is somewhat different than American on free speech issues.
The real question is how much can be asked of a judge:
Last week the judge adjourned to read both books.