Holy Litigation

More news on the Dan Brown front, which almost slipped past me – TheBookseller.com has an article analysing the merits of the legal battle brewing between Dan Brown/Random House, and (two of) the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh). It’s well worth the read, finishing with these comments:

Some 90% of cases like this settle before they go to full trial, but if Leigh and Baigent do succeed, the implications for Random House are grave. The claimants plan to press for an injunction stopping sales of Da Vinci and the UK release of the Sony/Columbia Pictures film scheduled for May 2006…The case would then go to a separate hearing to assess the level of damages, where Leigh and Baigant would seek “proper recognition” for their work, both in terms of acknowledgement and financial redress – most likely a notional royalty which could cost Random House millions.

Will be interesting to see how this one turns out – if Baigent and Leigh are successful, that will be almost front page news (stopping one of the biggest movies of the year).

  1. Understatement
    if Leigh and Baigent do succeed, the implications for Random House are grave.

    The implications aren’t just grave for Random House, but for all publishing houses, and especially writers. This lawsuit has the potential to dramatically change what is published and why, forever.

    Will Stel Pavlou have to pay royalties to all the non-fiction writers because he mined their theories and research for his novel Decipher? Will Matthew Reilly have to do the same for his novel Seven Wonders? How will this affect Ed Kovacs’ fiction, Daniel Easterman, Michael Asher? Will this mean publishers will treat new and aspiring authors such as Paul Collins as if they carried the Bird Flu virus, and refuse to even look at their manuscripts? The Baigent and Leigh case is setting very dangerous, and in my opinion just plain wrong, precedents for writers and publishers. If the impact is as little as books having to carry bibliographies, acknowledgements, or even footnotes like a proper academic paper, then we’ll be getting away lightly. But if it means the copyright owners of real facts, theories and research get a share of the royalties and equal billing as the authors themselves, then I’m very concerned.

    I’m concerned because I fear how the outcomes of this trial will affect my own career. If Baigent and Leigh win, then it’ll put a big dent in the chances of getting my own work published. Like Dan Brown, I too use real life theories and research for the basis of my novels. I’d always intended to include a foreword, thanking and acknowledging researchers such as Michael Hayes, Robert Temple, Fritjof Capra, Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval. Not for any legal reasons, but because I think it’s the courteous thing to do. Now I’m wondering if this will admit I used copyrighted materials to form my novel’s plot, and give lawyers ammunition to sue me? But if I don’t do this, will it create an even uglier legal mess, such as the one enveloping Dan Brown’s publisher?

    I know Robert Bauval doesn’t have a problem with writers such as Dan Brown and Stel Pavlou using his theories for a fiction novel — but if Baigent and Leigh win their case, then Bauval’s publisher might have a problem. Non-fiction, especially the alternative, is a minefield, and no matter how innocent your intentions, you could be facing a lawsuit.

    Baigent and Leigh could have used Dan Brown’s success to promote their own work in a positive way. Dan Brown has never claimed the theory as his own — he just used it in a fiction novel. And Brown did acknowledge Baigent and Leigh through the character Leigh Teabing. I would’ve been happy to be immortalised in one of the bestselling novels of all time in such a creative way. I think if Dan Brown hadn’t have made so much fame and fortune from The Da Vinci Code, Baigent and Leigh wouldn’t have had a problem.

    Perhaps I’m worrying over nothing. I’ll rewrite all of this, and include more thoughts and opinions, in a blog next week.

    1. Holy Blood, Holy Nonsense
      Once again, The Daily Grail community has risen to the occasion. The comments expressed here are accurate, coherent and to the point – especially those of Rico and Cernig. The lawsuit promoted by Baigent and Leigh confronts all of us with a serious attack on the very heart of free and open communications. This abuse of the courts is not merely wrong, it is devastatingly wrong on every level and I, for one, am appalled that any court would even consider the dispute.

      First, a court’s legitimacy is defined, in large measure, by its power to accept or reject a case “on merit”. If ever there was a case without merit, it is this suit. To even consider that Baigent and Leigh (or anyone else, for that matter) have any vested interest in, or ownership of, facts of history is, to my mind, an appalling affront to common sense and decency by any definition. Perhaps this selfsame court will next entertain a suit by the citizens of Rome charging the “unauthorized use of the Latin alphabet”.

      Second, while the thesis of Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln is entertaining, it is hardly original; claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Their propositions and conjectures turn on a few elements of what is generally known as, “The Secret of Christendom”. Admittedly, it is not much of a secret but still the Vatican would, under the court’s apparent standards, have a very good case against Baigent and Leigh. Didn’t John of Patmos make veiled reference to some of these issues in his “Revelation of the Apocalypse” some nineteen hundred years ago? (“Let those who have the Understanding…”).

      Third, where is the BBC in all of this? Weren’t Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, employees and/or agents of the BBC at the time of their investigations? I certainly remember that they indicated that their association with the BBC opened doors in their research for “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”. If the intricacies of international copyright law are to be applied, where is “precedence” in these considerations?

      Finally, an appeal to the readers of TDG: Please take this matter seriously and get involved. Admittedly, it is a Donnybrook and is likely to get worse. However, it is also the conduct of our lives and necessary freedoms that are ultimately before the bench. Nothing less than the ownership of our thoughts and knowledge is being challenged. Rico does not exaggerate the implications or importance of this matter.

      And yes Cernig, they should not be allowed to “have their cake and eat it too”. Especially when it’s our cake.

      Michael Scott

  2. The Da Vinci Farce
    The Catholic Church is so incensed with the Da Vinci Code that they have mounted a campaign to persuade people not to read the book and not to see the movie. Somehow they got wind of the filming at Lincoln Cathedral and organized a protest outside there while filming was going on.

    Ron Howard is the director of the movie, and has hired a Christian firm to market the movie to Christians. Already he has been contacted by the Church who have requested that the ending be changed because the revelation that Mary Magdalene married Jesus and had children is blasphemous.

    Changing the ending may be a good marketing ploy anyway because it is very weak — Langdon, played by Tom Hanks in the movie, discovers that the Grail is not in Rosslyn Chapel, but rather is buried under the Louvre, but he just doesn’t bother to go back there.

    If Baigent and Leigh are successful in stopping the movie, the Catholic Church will be pleased. Maybe the Church is behind Baigent and Leigh’s actions!

    The court case is scheduled for February next year. The court transcripts should make very interesting reading. Hmm. I smell $$$. Maybe I can turn them into a screenplay for a movie?

  3. Backward progression.
    If you ask me, this is a very potent case of backward progression. While I am a very big fan and hold the utmost respect for Baigent and Leigh I think this course of action is only serving to undermine the message Dan Brown’s work and their own have to offer. The message to think for yourself and question what you thought you knew.

    It’s a case where, the human ego surfaces and gets in the way of the disembodied current all three of them worked to propogate into the consciousness of our culture. I can understand on a human level that they (Baigent and Leigh) would be hard pressed about Dan Brown’s novel, but guys … you always, always have to look at the bigger picture.

    ” There is no Religion higher than the Truth. “

    1. Marketing campaign
      I see this all as nothing more than a marketing campaign. No matter who wins of loses, both sides will see a huge boost of their sales as a result of this high-profile court case.

  4. I side with Baigent and Leigh
    I side with Baigent and Leigh for several reasons: Baigent and Leigh put a lot of research in to their book and came up with a theory that goes against all common understanding of the person known as Jesus. This I assume was not any easy theory for them to contemplate and research, let alone to then get published: that a fiction writer can take all their work and simply weave a poorly written story around it – without recourse to the original researchers – is in my view, dishonest.

    I would add though that I do not agree with Baigent and Leigh’s theories, but nevertheless, credit where credit is due.


  5. Baigent and Leigh
    are on a hiding to nothing here. They published their book as a work of non-fiction, of academic scholarship if you will, and the precedent for free use of academic scholarship for downstream works or even works of fiction is well established in international law. Its a publicity stunt, nothing more – especially true when you take into account that Picknet and Prince would have a far stronger case but haven’t sued. They haven’t sued because they know that they presented themselves as merely as scholars and reporters of actual history (over which no-one has copyright) rather than inventors of a story.

    If Baigent and Leigh win, TDG should attempt to raise a fund to sue them for misrepresentation of their works as non-fiction and force them to have every book recalled for rebranding as fictional. They shouldn’t be allowed to have their cake and eat it too.

    Regards, C

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