Court of Appeal dismisses appeal in Baigent & Leigh v Random House Group Limited[ 2007] EWCA Civ 247

April 2007

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The Claimants in this case were two of the three authors of a book published in 1982, The HolyBlood and the Holy Grail(HBHG). The Defendant is the publisher in the UK of a book written by Dan Brown, the Da Vinci Code (DVC), first published in 2003. The Claimants’ contention is that, in writing DVC, Mr Brown infringed their copyright by copying a substantial part of HBHG in the course of writing six chapters of DVC. The case came to trial over 11 days in February and March 2006 before Mr Justice Peter Smith. In his judgment, delivered on 7 April 2006, he dismissed the claim . The Court of Appeal have upheld that decision although the leading judgment of Lord Justice Lloyd was somewhat critical of the trial judge in places. The case reinforces the position in English law that copyright does not subsist in ideas; it protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. No clear principle is or could be laid down in the case law in order to tell whether what is sought to be protected is on the ideas side of the dividing line, or on the expression side. Where the material copied is found to be an expression then the court must look to see if a substantial part of the work has been copied in the infringing work (and these two tests are often interconnected). Here what was copied was thetheme of the copyright work and on the facts of this case this was held not to be an infringement.

See also Law Updates May 2006

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