N.Y. court rules Brown didn't copy 'Da Vinci Code'
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Best-selling author Dan Brown has won a court ruling against another writer who claimed Brown's book "The Da Vinci Code" copied elements from two of his books, Brown's publisher, Random House, said on Friday.
Brown avoided $150 million in damages author Lewis Perdue had sought in a legal ruling that also characterized his blockbuster book as an "intellectual" work.
Perdue had claimed "The Da Vinci Code," which has 36 million copies in print worldwide, infringed the copyright of his novels "Daughter of God" and "The Da Vinci Legacy."
Perdue sought $150 million damages and asked the court to block distribution of the book and a movie of "The Da Vinci Code" that is in production by Sony Pictures.
He alleged that Brown copied the basic premise of "Daughter of God," including notions of a "divine feminine" and the transition from a female to a male-dominated church under Roman Emperor Constantine.
Perdue could not immediately be reached for comment.
"The Da Vinci Code" has been roundly condemned by the Roman Catholic Church because the plot is based on the theory that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children, whose descendants have endured to the present day.
Perdue's book "Daughter of God" is an art-world thriller featuring an American husband and wife and involving a document that tells the story of a second Messiah named Sophia who lived in the fourth century.
Judge George Daniels of U.S. District Court in New York made a detailed analysis of the plots of the two books, as well as Perdue's earlier work, "The Da Vinci Legacy," which shares some elements with his later novel.
"A reasonable average lay observer would not conclude that 'The Da Vinci Code' is substantially similar to 'Daughter of God,"' Daniels wrote in his summary judgment.
"Any slightly similar elements are on the level of generalized or otherwise unprotectable ideas," he said, adding that copyright does not protect an idea, but only the expression of an idea.Daniels said while both novels were mystery thrillers, "Daughter of God" was more action-packed with gunfights and violent deaths.
"'The Da Vinci Code,' on the other hand, was an intellectual, complex treasure hunt," he said.
Brown initiated the proceedings by filing a suit seeking a declaratory ruling that his book did not infringe Perdue's copyright. Perdue, who has a Web site documenting what he calls Brown's plagiarism, then countersued.