The Da Vinci Code case

Nick Cohen has an interesting piece in today’s Observer.

Initially, he was indifferent about the outcome.

How much of The Da Vinci Code is – ahem – ‘borrowed’ from Holy Blood, Holy Grail is the subject of the plagiarism case at the High Court in London that enters what should be its final week tomorrow. ‘Too bad they can’t both lose,’ said Henry Kissinger about the Iran-Iraq War and I felt the same when I went to the court.

But, on reflection, Cohen alighted on a spot-on appreciation of the significance of the case for free culture.

David Hooper, a specialist in intellectual property, said the case was something new. The Holy Blood authors are not saying that Dan Brown had copied chunks of their work verbatim. Instead, they are suing him for taking some of their ideas, researching them, playing with them and turning them into a novel. If they win, Hooper believes a chill will go through cultural life as publishers face the next to impossible task of separating original thoughts from other people’s thoughts.

“I hate to be the one who has to say it”, Cohen concludes, “but Dan Brown needs to win. If he doesn’t, free thought may be stifled in the name of protecting ideas.”