Da Vinci Code ruling available

A comment in IPKat has a link to the ruling for Baigent v Random House [2006] EWHC 719 (Ch). I’ve browsed through it (a good way of spending a Friday night). It is not particularly surprising, the ruling specifies that The Da Vinci Code did not constitute substantial copying of Baigent and Leigh’s book.

The ruling by Peter Smith contains noteworthy analysis of the state of the art of the originality test in UK copyright law. It is stressed that originality does not equal novelty, and therefore original works may be based on other works in a non-substantial part. A case that has been heavily cited in the new ruling is Ravenscroft v Herbert [1980] RPC 193. This is a case where writer James Herbert copied substantial parts of another book. The main difference with the Da Vinci Code is that the copying could not be considered substantial in any significant manner. However, the claimants argued that the copying was substantial because their “central themes” had been used by Brown. Mr Smith rubbishes the central themes conclusion:

“Nevertheless for the Claimants case to have any credibility the Central Theme has to be found in HBHG at the first stage before one even comes to consider whether Mr Brown copied it or even substantially copied it because that is the medium through which it is asserted that HBHG itself has been substantially copied. The fact that the Claimants had difficulty formulating their own Central Theme which was allegedly always in their minds when they wrote HBHG is incredible. I can forgive the obvious blunder of missing the Grail out of the first 19 but there are limits to forgiveness.”

Well said!

Leave a Reply