Dan Brown Update: It’s All In The Execution

March 17th, 2006 · 3 Comments
by Booksquare

It is difficult to admit, but the Da Vinci trial has become one of our most-watched (or, in our case, read) events. Unlike all the other silliness in the world, this trial is exposing an important issue: who owns ideas? Or as the Los Angeles Times puts it:

If it were a run-of-the-mill copyright claim, Leigh and Baigent would argue that Brown lifted passages of their work verbatim, or that his work as a whole was substantially similar to theirs. Instead, they maintain that Brown built his novel around the central assertion of their book…

Artists constantly borrow from other artists, creating more great art. One could argue that it’s not the idea, it’s the execution, and that seems to be the case here. Say what you will, it seems that Dan Brown presented the idea of a Jesus Christ/Mary Magdalene bloodline in a more compelling manner than the Holy Blood, Holy Grail authors (who weren’t the originators of the idea either).

We don’t think it would be overstating the case to say if Brown were to lose this battle, it would have a serious impact on authors, painters, musicians, and filmmakers everywhere.

[tags]Dan Brown, Da Vinci Code, copyright[/tags]

File Under: Our Continuing Fascination With Copyright

3 responses so far ↓

  • Bob // Mar 17, 2006 at 10:34 am

    If Brown were to lose his case, it would be virtually impossible for anyone, authors in particular, to expound on new ideas for fear of being accused of “theft.”

    Strangely enough, there is already precedence in the photographic world that protects one photographer’s visual “idea” from being replicated, in substance, by another. Essentially, a professional photographer had taken a photograph of a woman standing, against the backdrop of a sunset, with the falling sun between her outstretched legs. Another photographer, for a customer, took a similar shot. It was ruled to be a copyright infringement.

    Altogether, a potentially chilling effect. Fortunately, there are so many ideas out in the world now, in published form, that existing ideas, unless truly unique, should be considered to be in the public domain. Just stay away from new ones.

  • David Thayer // Mar 17, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Brown can’t lose the case. Random House UK is the defendant and the theory of the case seems to be about remedy rather than the underlying issue of plagiarism. In theory the two authors suffered harm in the marketplace and the remedy would be compensatory damages. If this were a US case the test would be to prove damage was done rather than demonstrate that ideas were stolen. I don’t think a court wants to arbitrate the creative process and, despite the rhetoric, I don’t think that’s what it has been asked to do.

  • Booksquare // Mar 17, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    I doubt that this case can be lost — but, let’s be honest, I’ve been wrong once or twice (see: previous high profile legal cases). I am admittedly paranoid, but there is a strange anti-creative bias happening. I can’t imagine anyone determining that these authors, at this point in their book’s cycle, have suffered damage. That ideas are coming into the argument disturbs me.

    Of course, staying away from new ideas is a problem. I always think I’m being original. Copyright is big business, and when art collides with business, rational thought is thrown out. No, I don’t think the plaintiffs will win; it’s the fact that this went to trial that gives me pause (not, of course, knowing the underlying UK laws).