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"Da Vinci Code" publishers win UK court case

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, April 7 (Reuters) The publishers of ''The Da Vinci Code'', the blockbuster novel by US author Dan Brown, won their UK court case today over accusations of plagiarism.

A judge at the High Court in London rejected allegations by two historians that Brown had stolen ideas from their book ''The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail''.

The historians, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, had brought the case against Brown's British publisher Random House.

Judge Peter Smith gave his verdict at the end of a trial which lasted nearly a month and was followed intensely by reporters, copyright lawyers and fans of the novel, which has sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

''The plaintiffs' case has failed,'' he said. ''Dan Brown has not infringed copyright. None of this amounts to copying The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.'' Brown later issued a statement welcoming the outcome.

''Today's verdict shows that this claim was utterly without merit,'' it said. ''I'm still astonished that these two authors chose to file their suit at all.

''I am pleased with today's outcome, not only from a personal standpoint, but also as a novelist.

''Books are an important part of our culture -- this is a good day both for those who write and those who enjoy reading.'' Brown testified at the hearings, which were peppered with abstruse debate over the Merovingian monarchy, the Knights Templar and the bloodline of Jesus Christ, all of which feature in The Da Vinci Code.

The verdict will be welcomed by Bertelsmann AG, the German media conglomerate which owns Random House, and Sony Pictures, which is due to release a film based on the book soon.

Baigent and Leigh, who published ''The Holy Blood'' in 1982, also with Random House, now face a legal bill of over one million pounds (1.75 million dollars).

However, sales of their own book have shot up as a result of the publicity surrounding the case.

They had based their argument on the similarities between the books, which both raise the possibility Jesus had a child by Mary Magdalene, that she fled to France after the Crucifixion and that Christ's bloodline survives to this day.

REUTERS SHR RN1907

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