Da Vinci Code judgment upheld

Court of Appeal dismisses authors' appeal

The Court of Appeal has today rejected the appeal by the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail against the judgment of Peter Smith J, holding that he had been right to find that, although Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown had made use of their book to write certain parts of his own, there had not been substantial copying and therefore had been no infringement.

Authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh had brought proceedings against Da Vinci Code publishers Random House, claiming that the book copied the “central theme” of their 1982 work The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and therefore infringed their copyright. Peter Smith J found against them in a judgment that became famous for containing a code of the judge’s own devising.

Lord Justices Mummery, Rix and Lloyd today dismissed Baigent and Leigh’s appeal. Lord Justice Mummery said: “In my judgment, the judge rightly held that the claimants have not established that a substantial part of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail has been copied, either as to the original composition and expression of the work or as to the particular collection, selection and arrangement of material in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.”

Lord Justice Lloyd said: “In my judgment it has not been shown that the judge was wrong in the conclusions to which he came. On the contrary, it seems to me that he was entitled to come to those conclusions. I would therefore dismiss this appeal.”

Baigent and Leigh expressed disappointment at the ruling, saying in a statement: “We believed, and still do, that non-fiction authors would suffer and be discouraged from extensive research if it was found that any author could take another’s ideas, ‘morph’ and repackage them, then sell them on.”

Random House were awarded the costs of the appeal, estimated at £300,000 for each side, in addition to the 85% of the costs of the trial they had been awarded by Peter Smith J.

No application has been made for permission to appeal to the House of Lords.

For the full 5RB.com case report and judgment, please click here.