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Author Topic: DaVinci Code copyright case
white rabbit
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posted 04 March 2006 08:02 PM      Profile for white rabbit     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Has anyone been following the copyright case in the UK that the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail have filed against the DaVinci Code author /
publisher? This is intruiging because the plaintiffs
allege that the defendant stole loosely - defined ideas, as opposed to actual intellectual material.

While at university I could never fully understand exactly what did or didn't constitute plagarism. If a person take an idea from here and there, recasts them in his or her own words, is that plagarism?

[ 04 March 2006: Message edited by: white rabbit ]


From: NS | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged
obscurantist
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posted 04 March 2006 08:47 PM      Profile for obscurantist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yeah, I had some of the same questions, and bumped an old discussion (link) about the book the other day (though the book lounge is probably a better place to talk about this). I don't really see where the "theft of intellectual property" angle comes in either.
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voice of the damned
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posted 05 March 2006 04:58 AM      Profile for voice of the damned     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I've never read either HBHG or TDVC, but I had always assumed that the ideas in the latter were lifted from the former.
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skdadl
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posted 05 March 2006 11:29 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I haven't read either book, and a judgement would have to be based on some close reading.

The most obvious kind of plagiarism consists simply of substantial passages inserted verbatim, or only very slightly revised, from another work without credit (and perhaps without paying permissions fees). Those cases are relatively easy to prove.

But there is a basis in law for arguing that someone could have stolen the development of an idea or a topic. That is harder to prove, especially since it is also possible to argue that certain basic plots or ways of plotting are universal.

An interesting complication to me is that we see historical shifts in attitude towards literary "borrowing." There are times when writers are much more anxious than usual about easy allusions to other writers' works.

It will be an interesting case to watch.


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M. Spector
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posted 05 March 2006 12:21 PM      Profile for M. Spector   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
As far as I am aware, there is no allegation of verbatim copying. The plaintiff claims only "similarity of expression" of certain ideas, theories, and facts, without acknowledging their source.

I think if this case succeeds, fiction writers of the future will be obliged to provide extensive footnotes to "acknowledge" the source of the themes and theories that they have been influenced by.


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Crippled_Newsie
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posted 05 March 2006 12:24 PM      Profile for Crippled_Newsie     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
But there is a basis in law for arguing that someone could have stolen the development of an idea or a topic. That is harder to prove, especially since it is also possible to argue that certain basic plots or ways of plotting are universal.

If the plaintiffs win, I wonder how that will affect people who do something similar to Frederick Forsythe... take actual events and fictionalize from them. One wonders if journalists who originally reported the actual events (say, exclusively) would have standing to sue, in that instance.

ETA:

quote:
I think if this case succeeds, fiction writers of the future will be obliged to provide extensive footnotes to "acknowledge" the source of the themes and theories that they have been influenced by.

And what ever do screenwriters do then?

[ 05 March 2006: Message edited by: Crippled_Newsie ]


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skdadl
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posted 05 March 2006 12:32 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, I have seen cases, and then I have seen cases.

I think you need good readers examining each case.

I keep meaning to read, eg, Life of Pi, Yann Martel's award-winning book, which he admits was partly inspired by the work of a Brazilian novelist, Moacyr Scliar (which one would also need to read), but only in the classic literary way - and most literary people seem to agree with Martel, so I can imagine that is fair.

But I have seen court testimony comparing, eg, outlines of "universal history" as written by H.G. Wells and also, previously, by a spinster in Toronto (whose manuscript he probably had access to), and I gotta tell you - I was convinced. Wells was a thief!

(NB: You can't libel the dead. )


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M. Spector
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posted 05 March 2006 12:32 PM      Profile for M. Spector   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Crippled_Newsie:
And what ever do screenwriters do then?
Subtitles.

[ 05 March 2006: Message edited by: M. Spector ]


From: One millihelen: The amount of beauty required to launch one ship. | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
white rabbit
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posted 05 March 2006 01:10 PM      Profile for white rabbit     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by M. Spector:
As far as I am aware, there is no allegation of verbatim copying. The plaintiff claims only "similarity of expression" of certain ideas, theories, and facts, without acknowledging their source.

I think if this case succeeds, fiction writers of the future will be obliged to provide extensive footnotes to "acknowledge" the source of the themes and theories that they have been influenced by.


But we've all been influenced by something in anything we create or write. Those influences could be unconcious. And skadadl are you suggesting that a patent of sorts exists on themes and ideas?

My son is in university and virtually every professor demands that students submit their essays to a service called turnitin.com
If I were a student I'd be resisting this demand which essentially deems students to be guilty until proven otherwise. The owner of turnitin must be raking in a fortune.


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bittersweet
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posted 05 March 2006 01:32 PM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Lawyers for "Da Vinci Code" have given the judge evidence that the subjects under dispute are covered in other published sources. The judge will be reading that material to determine how exclusive "The Holy Blood" research really was. Apparently not very. The most interesting aspect of the case to me was a little mention that one of "The Holy Blood" authors wasn't taking part in the suit. Hmmm...

In the screenwriting world (and I imagine elsewhere), when hacks steal they inevitably call it "homage". I see this most often with those who can't actually write, but they have watched a lot of other writers' work made into movies. (They haven't read the scripts, mind, just watched the movies.) They want to be Bergman, so they copy Bergman. (It's always the most iconic work that these idiots want to copy - first mistake.) They leave the stolen stuff intact because they don't know what to do with it. The really good writers take what they steal and make it so much their own that even if you do guess the source, it's not all that relevant. It's simply a case of being inspired by someone else's work, a kind of story evolution. Moreover, half the time the "steal" isn't really that: the writer's only noticed a similarity to another script after independently putting together elements that happen resemble it. Not only is it virtually impossible to create something completely original in every single respect, but, at least in the case of good writers, those aspects that are similar are not the most important anyway.

At any rate, that the process is accepted as natural is reflected in the saying that goes something like "Good writers borrow, great ones steal." There's a vast difference between creative stealing - which is generally admired - and simply being derivative - which is considered bottom-feeding. Nobody admires a lazy and incompetent thief.


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skdadl
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posted 05 March 2006 01:39 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
white rabbit asked:

quote:
skadadl are you suggesting that a patent of sorts exists on themes and ideas?

Gosh. I should have thought that if you read what I wrote, you would come to quite a different conclusion.

There is no copyright on titles, and mostly not on "ideas" or "themes," although those become subject to finer definition.

But it is possible to do exceptionally dishonest cribbing of someone else's logical development of a theme or an idea, and if you've seen this done, you would recognize it.

So we're back to where we started. Each case must be decided on its merits, from the evidence. And the evidence comes from close reading.


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skdadl
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posted 05 March 2006 01:39 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
PS: I also think that turnitin.com is an abomination.
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white rabbit
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posted 05 March 2006 02:08 PM      Profile for white rabbit     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by bittersweet:
Lawyers for "Da Vinci Code" have given the judge evidence that the subjects under dispute are covered in other published sources. The judge will be reading that material to determine how exclusive "The Holy Blood" research really was. Apparently not very. The most interesting aspect of the case to me was a little mention that one of "The Holy Blood" authors wasn't taking part in the suit. Hmmm...


Ah, I see. It would seem then, that the Holy Grail
authors have a flimsy case. Their themes about the Knights Templar have been 'out there' for a long time and don't appear in their book as groundbreaking, original ideas. But then again that's why they chose Britain as the venue to present their case, as frivolous complaints are often taken seriously there. That's where Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones' pursued their vanity complaint. As for the third author of the Holy Grail not joining in the suit, he is reportedly in poor health. I read their book about
20 years ago and thought it was rather boring.


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faith
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posted 05 March 2006 02:09 PM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Skdadl I also put off reading Life of Pi until just about a month ago. It was an unusual story and I enjoyed every word.
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skdadl
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posted 05 March 2006 02:12 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Gee, faith: if you have time, could you look for Scliar's book as well and compare the two?

I keep thinking I should do that, but you're ahead of me.

Scliar's book is called Max and the Cats.


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faith
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posted 05 March 2006 02:28 PM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I will write it down and put it on the 'to read' list. If I get to it soon I will post in the one of the book threads. Thanks for the suggestion, I had not heard of Max and the Cats.
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skdadl
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posted 05 March 2006 02:32 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Apparently, Martel went so far as to thank Scliar in his acknowledgements, for the inspiration. Yet even so, Scliar made nasty noises when Martel's book became such a success.

That sounds to me just a case of how well one writes an idea out. But it is an interesting case none the less.


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Wilf Day
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posted 07 April 2006 12:27 AM      Profile for Wilf Day     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
there is a basis in law for arguing that someone could have stolen the development of an idea or a topic. That is harder to prove, especially since it is also possible to argue that certain basic plots or ways of plotting are universal.

If the authors of HBHG were saying "our book is fiction, and these guys stole our very unique plot," maybe. But they claim it's fact. How can you copyright history itself?

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Mr. Magoo
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posted 07 April 2006 12:37 AM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I wonder if a sitcom writer could sue another sitcom writer, claiming that they first conceived of the "wacky neighbour" or the "precocious cousin" or some similar? How about "Well, I first invented the idea that at the end, it's all revealed to be a dream"?

Funny that the literary world would consider this, uh, "borrowing" to be a problem, but on television, cribbing is absolutely what one does.

Anyhoo, still working on my novel about a one-armed sea captain who's obsessed with hunting down the Great White Shark that took his arm.


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voice of the damned
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posted 07 April 2006 06:51 AM      Profile for voice of the damned     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
quote:

If the authors of HBHG were saying "our book is fiction, and these guys stole our very unique plot," maybe. But they claim it's fact. How can you copyright history itself?


Yeah, the HBHG guys kinda painted themselves into a corner there.


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 07 April 2006 10:40 AM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Magoo:
I wonder if a sitcom writer could sue another sitcom writer, claiming that they first conceived of the "wacky neighbour" or the "precocious cousin" or some similar?


On the whacky neighbor copyright, see "Abraham vs. Gilgamesh".

Okay, maybe our deffinition of whacky has modified over the millenia. A lot more slap stick in those days, but the precedent is there.

The judge ruled that while Inkidu was serious in nature, he met the deffinition of whacky, and dismissed Abraham's copyright claim that Elohim was the first whacky neighbour.

That ruling was recently held up in the case "Gilgamesh vs. Steve Allen."

Oh shit. I just got notice of action from Mel Brooks.

[ 07 April 2006: Message edited by: Tommy_Paine ]


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Fitz
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posted 07 April 2006 11:11 AM      Profile for Fitz     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Today's Globe: Judge rejects copyright violation claim against Da Vinci Code

JILL LAWLESS

Associated Press Writer

LONDON — A judge ruled Friday that best-selling author Dan Brown did not steal ideas from a nonfiction book, ending the suspense about whether the novelist committed copyright infringement in his thriller "The Da Vinci Code."

Wow! There's a surprise! Is it just me or did this whole thing strike anyone else as a way to garner free press prior to the film opening?

[ 07 April 2006: Message edited by: Fitz ]


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F.
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posted 07 April 2006 01:29 PM      Profile for F.     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I wonder if a sitcom writer could sue another sitcom writer

Or if a cartoon character could sue a message board user for appropriating his name?


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Bobolink
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posted 07 April 2006 01:58 PM      Profile for Bobolink   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Taking ideas from others is common in fiction. Most of Shakespeares's plays have origins on other plays. And speaking of Shakespeare, the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet is an almost scene-by-scene retelling of The Tempest.
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TheStudent
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posted 07 April 2006 02:12 PM      Profile for TheStudent        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Fitz:
Is it just me or did this whole thing strike anyone else as a way to garner free press prior to the film opening?
This would not be seeking publicity for the film opening, but rather for the new book that Michael Baigent has coming out in the extrememly near future called The Jesus Papers. He was interviewed on The Current this morning and was called on this by Matt Galloway (I think that is how you spell his name). This law suit was so obviously frivolous. I have read both HBHG and TDVC, and while TDVC obviously follows the theories laid out in HBHG, HBHG is presenting itself as fact, and as was already mentioned here, you can't copyright history. It is good to see that Dan Brown won the case.

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Briguy
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posted 07 April 2006 03:48 PM      Profile for Briguy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Fitz:
Today's Globe: Judge rejects copyright violation claim against Da Vinci Code

JILL LAWLESS

Associated Press Writer

LONDON — A judge ruled Friday that best-selling author Dan Brown did not steal ideas from a nonfiction book, ending the suspense about whether the novelist committed copyright infringement in his thriller "The Da Vinci Code."

Wow! There's a surprise! Is it just me or did this whole thing strike anyone else as a way to garner free press prior to the film opening?

[ 07 April 2006: Message edited by: Fitz ]


Funny you should ask:

Old DaVinci Code thread (slightly different topic, but the copyright charge/publicity stunt does earn a mention).


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M. Spector
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posted 28 April 2006 10:32 PM      Profile for M. Spector   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Puzzle Embedded in Da Vinci Code Ruling
quote:
Justice Peter Smith's 71-page ruling in the recent "Da Vinci Code" copyright case here is notable for many things: the judge's occasional forays into literary criticism, his snippy remarks about witnesses on both sides, and his fluent knowledge not only of copyright law but also of more esoteric topics like the history of the Knights Templar.

But there is more to it than that. Embedded in the first 13½ pages of the ruling is Justice Smith's very own secret code, one that when partly solved reveals its name: the Smithy Code.
....
The decision was a resounding slap in the face to the two plaintiffs, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. But it was also an opportunity for Justice Smith to indulge in a flight of judicial and cryptological fancy.

The first clue that a puzzle exists lies in the typeface of the ruling. Most of the document is printed in regular roman letters, the way one would expect. But some letters in the first 13½ pages appear in boldface italics, jarringly, in the midst of all the normal words. Thus, in the first paragraph of the decision, which refers to Mr. Leigh and Mr. Baigent, the "s" in the word "claimants" is italicized and boldfaced.

If you pluck all the italicized letters out of the text, you find that the first 10 spell "Smithy Code," an apparent play on "Da Vinci Code." But the next series of letters, some 30 or so, are a jumble, and this is the mystery that needs to be solved to break the code.

In a brief telephone interview on Wednesday, Justice Smith declined to provide a solution for a puzzled reporter. Nor would he explain how he had put the code in his ruling, or how long it took him to figure out how to do it.


Will they be suing the Judge now for plagiarism of the "embedded code" idea?

From: One millihelen: The amount of beauty required to launch one ship. | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
M. Spector
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posted 30 April 2006 03:42 AM      Profile for M. Spector   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The British judge who embedded an encoded message in his judgment in a case involving Dan Brown's bestseller The Da Vinci Code has revealed the secret after a London lawyer solved the puzzle.

Justice Peter Smith said he hid a reference to the man who invented the Royal Navy's first modern warship into his ruling. Dan Tench, a London lawyer, claims he was first to uncover it: "Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought." Fisher developed the Dreadnought battleship.

"The message reveals a significant but now overlooked event that occurred virtually 100 years to the day of the start of the trial," Smith said yesterday in a statement.

- news reports April 29


From: One millihelen: The amount of beauty required to launch one ship. | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
GT Snowracer
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posted 01 May 2006 02:03 PM      Profile for GT Snowracer        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This thread asks a great question.

What if the first science fiction writer claimed the concept of man in space as a copy written intellectual property.

Ideas in novels can create genres, but to claim ownership of the pop cultural side-effects and subsequent spin off novels is gonna be tough to prove.

GT
"I invented the internet, and I'm suing Al Gore"


From: In the echo chamber | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged

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