Several news sources have reported that Dan Brown, the author of “The Da Vinci Code”, won his battle in Federal Distict Court over accused plagiarism in the book.
Lewis Perdue, author of “Daughter of God” and “The Da Vinci Legacy”, claimed that Brown stole many of the ideas for the “The Da Vinci Code” from his books including the “divine feminine” and the role of Roman Emperor Constantine in converting the church to from female-dominated to male-dominated.
U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels felt differently. He said that “A reasonable average lay observer would not conclude that The Da Vinci Code is substantially similar to Daughter of God.” He went on to say, quite correctly, that, “Ideas and general literary themes themselves are unprotectible under the copyright law.”
The case is interesting because it shows how much of a gray area plagiarism really is. If we assume that Mr. Brown actually did read Mr. Pedue’s works and steal the ideas, a big jump in my opinion, then the case doesn’t change very much. Copyright law by in large protects words, images and sounds, not ideas. Ideas fall under patent law and, thankfully, there’s no such thing as a literary patent.
If this had been a case of word-for-word copying or even paraphrasing, it seems likely that the case would have turned out very differently.
Courts have also offered some protection for ideas when dealing with copyright laws. Characters, for example, are protected. This is why fan fiction is automatically the property of the original creators. However, it’s often difficult to prove that two characters are the same person, especially when the latter changes various details and doesn’t try to trade on the public’s knowledge of the previous author’s work.
In the end though, the court found that, if Mr. Brown did lift anything, it was not specific enough to warrant infringement. Since there are a relatively limted number of ideas available out there, especially in the world of historical drama, copyright protection of a vague idea is a pretty scary notion.
Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how this one progresses through the appeals courts. Perhaps more concrete infringement will come to the surface then.
[tags]Plagiarism, Da Vinci, Copyright Infringement, Writing[/tags]