Judge Clears 'Da Vinci Code' Author

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A London judge ruled today that Dan Brown did not steal the idea for his stratospherically successful thriller, "The Da Vinci Code," from an earlier book, and he cleared Mr. Brown's publisher, Random House, of accusations of copyright infringement.

In issuing his judgment, Justice Peter Smith said that Mr. Brown did indeed rely on "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" in writing a section of the book, but he said that Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, the two authors of the earlier book, had failed to prove what the central theme of their book was and thus failed to prove that Mr. Brown had lifted it from them.

In fact, the judge said, the earlier book "does not have a central theme as contended by the claimants: it was an artificial creation for the purposes of the litigation working back from 'The Da Vinci Code.' "

The case has riveted not only copyright lawyers excited at the prospect of a new legal precedent but also the literary world, thirsty for details about the life and work of the elusive Mr. Brown and concerned about the possible ramifications for other novelists should Random House lose.

There was also concern that a loss for Random House could delay the release of the "Da Vinci Code" film, starring Tom Hanks, Sir Ian McKellen and Audrey Tatou, which is set to open on May 19.

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