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<i>Da Vinci Code</i> Lawsuit Claims Author Stole Ideas From Another Book

The controversial Dan Brown novel, The Da Vinci Code, is facing a lawsuit claiming the author stole ideas from another book written more than 20 years ago.

The Da Vinci Code has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and been on the bestseller list for three years. But now two British writers say Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown, stole their ideas. Authors Michael Baigen and Richard Leigh claim Brown lifted the central theme from their 1982 nonfiction The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

Both books theorize that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a child, and the bloodline continues in a secret society.

The two authors are suing Random House, the publisher of both books. But media lawyer Paul Herbert says the suit is without merit. "The publishers of The Da Vinci Code are saying, 'Look, all we have done is taken the basic facts in the original work, the premise about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and turned it into a novel. There is no copyright in the facts that we based it on, so where's the claim?' "

Copyright specialist Conan Chittham says this case is likely to clarify existing copyright laws over the extent to which an author can use other people's research.

"If this case wins, it could open the floodgates to all sorts of litigation for people who've had their ideas, as they see it, stolen by more successful people."

A judgment against the book could hold up the scheduled release of the film version of The Da Vinci Code.