Lawsuits As Publicity Stunts: The Da Vinci Lawsuits

from the oh-come-on dept

Earlier this month, we wrote about a ridiculous lawsuit in the UK by the author of a non-fiction book, claiming that author Dan Brown somehow “stole” the ideas in their book for his best seller, The Da Vinci Code. That case quickly was thrown out. However, it looks like others are trying the same trick, this time in the US. Another author had filed a $150 million suit in the US claiming the same thing, but it, too, has been thrown out. The judge specifically notes that this is a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of the novel. It’s interesting to note the timing on both of these cases. The book has been out for years — but the paperback just came out and the movie is about to come out. I was in a bookstore last night, and there was a huge display of Da Vinci Code books and related “stuff.” It makes you wonder whether or not all these lawsuits are well timed publicity more than anything else. Update: The author involved in the story here has responded himself in our comments with some additional details. Among the details is the fact that Random House sued him, and not the other way around. However, this still makes it feel more like a publicity stunt than anything else.

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Comments on “Lawsuits As Publicity Stunts: The Da Vinci Lawsuits”

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Pedren says:

I wouldn't put it past um

Honestly in today’s get rich or die trying world of commericalism and advertising I’m honestly surprised we haven’t seen something along these lines before. Any more Americans are only paying attention to trials any how so what better way to market a movie or book than a highly publicized court drama.

Frankie says:

Tom Hanks

I agree. These people are schemers who have no right to contest Dan Brown’s writing. It’s not Brown’s fault that you guys’ writing is about as intriguing as a tax return form.

Yeah and speaking of Tom Hanks, this is off-topic, but hey…

When I first heard it was going to be Tom Hanks playing Robert Langdon, I almost lost faith in the movie (Tom Hanks is an amazing actor, but i didn’t see him as Langdon). but now that I’ve seen the previews and the way they did him up for it, I’d say it’s not bad at all. And the movie looks great. [/off-topic]

Asher Schweigart (user link) says:

Not getting the point...

What this article is suggesting is that whoever is filing these lawsuits is working WITH Dan Brown to get more publicity for the movie/book, not that these people are trying to get famous for themselves, or that they want to steal his success. I’ve felt that way about other lawsuits. My theory is that they were paid to file the lawsuit.

For example, why would Michael Jackson sleep with another young boy after he already got in trouble for it once? He didn’t. His publicity was falling, records weren’t selling cause people weren’t thinking the name Michael Jackson. So he hires a family to file a lawsuit claiming this, and gets publicity for it. Then people know his name, and although some hate him, in the end he sells more albums because of it. (Note: i have now research showing that he actually did sell more during the lawsuit, it’s just my theory. Maybe sometime i’l go find data for that theory)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not getting the point...

Why would Dan Brown work with some random authors to file lawsuits to publicize the book/movie? Have you noticed that this is already one of the most publicized books ever? To think that after having churches and religious groups all over the world protest the book (which only made more people read it) that two random lawsuits were gonna “kickstart” some buzz about it? I think that ship sailed when the Vatican made comments on it. I think the buzz is already maxed out. But good theory though, I commend you for thinking a full second and a half about it.

Christopher Knight says:

The difference in the Purdue case is that Brown’s publishers sued *HIM* first for daring to question in public that Brown lifted integral ideas, characters, and plot elements from his novels “The Da Vinci Legacy” (1983) and “Daughter of God” (2000). He’s not in it for the money, either, as he’s earmarked any settlement for charity – right now, specificly for Katrina relief efforts.

And now, Brown publishers are suing him AGAIN, trying to reclaim their lawyers fees from a case that THEY instigated! You can read more about it here.

Lewis Perdue (user link) says:

Da Vinci Code Litigation

You may be interested in the following facts, all verified by legal filings at:

– Random House sued ME; not the other way around.

– Random House filed suit to silence the facts I was posting on the web.

– There has been NO trial on the facts, only the Random House effort to prevent a trial.

– The only sworn statements made under penalty of perjury are affidavits from me and my experts, nothing from RH.

– The judge refused to consider any expert analysis proving plagiarism.

– Despite suing me first, Random House & Sony are trying to make me pay the legal fees they spent to sue me.

– Contrary to the Random House spin, I am not alleging plagiarism of general issues, but of several hundred very specific ones.

– This is not about money. Anything I win goes to charity.

– My law firm is preparing the certiorari petition now to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court

I am also expanding the team to include experts with constitutional/scholarly experience.

The biggest issue (other than the Second Circuit not following its own rules) is the fact that the Ninth Circuit out here on the West Coast has standards regarding infringement that are significantly different from the Second Circuit’s especially when it comes to interpreting the lay reader role with regard to summary judgement.

The 9th consistently denies summary judgement (allowing a trial on the facts) even in cases where there are far more significant issues and far fewer of them than we have shown so far in our case.

And while the 9th has a reputation as the most overturned circuit in the nation, the Supreme Court as consistently upheld its rulings in copyright infringement.’

In the present case, the Second Circuit also failed to address any of the five main grounds included in our appeals brief, opting to rubber stamp the District Court and even referring in its opinion to the factually flawed description of the books as described by the District Court (said inaccurate descriptions, ironically, lifted mostly word-for-word from the Random House brief).

The Second Circuit also mistakenly repeated the Random House assertion that we had abandoned our infringement claims for my 1983 best-seller, The Da Vinci Legacy and failed to follow its own precedent that works be considered “as a whole.”

There is more detail and comment at:

NOCcer says:

Re: Da Vinci Code Litigation

One example of the many similarities:

Perdue Version: 6. This occurs on page 35.

Brown version: 6. This occurs on page 35.

Are you kidding me? So if this murder appeared on page 34 it’d be alright?

And frankly, the plot items listed out on this page are so overcooked in Hollywood that it is a wonder it hasn’t collapsed upon itself.

Having Green eyes is a point for plagiarism?? Being busty?? Come on! One can find 1000s of books that specifically state a female character has green eyes. Are you going to sue Kurt Russel and everyone involved with Big Trouble in Little China?? It’s exotic, it’s sexy, and that’s why it’s in there. Not because he got it from you.

The list of plot sequences and correlations is certainly on every rolodex of gimmicks on every Studio writer’s desk.

The hero and heroine are stalked by a “hulk” assassin

The hulk assassin is an “educator” or directed by one.


Yeah, that was certainly original in 1983.


Give me a break. If you wanted to put a halt to a movie about the church, couldn’t you have saved us from Hudson Hawk (1991)?

chronicon (user link) says:


…not to say that this story is uninteresting. On the contrary, it is simply another example of the voracity of the most litigious societies in the history of mankind. A very sad commentary on the status of our times at any rate…

It wasn’t all that long ago that we saw the same attempts made against the author of the Harry Potter material.

Trend? Uh, yeah, count on it…

ElectricMayhem says:

Da Vinci Code

Give me a break please……I read two paragraphs then sped swiftly through middle bit and end….took me about 45 secs….. realised that this was completely and utterly undigestable rubbish written by an astoundingly bad writer….no I am not religeous…..the content did not offend my sensibilities….it was just plain tripe…..

As for law suit….of course it was a publicity stunt…..there is no way anyone with half a legal mind would or could find on behalf of the complainants……

As for Anonymous Coward’s rather silly point…..fact is….both books have been selling at the rate of approx 7,000 copies a day worldwide… way has anyone lost any money….apart from the stupid saps that bought the book!!!

Cap'n Jeff says:

Dan Brown is, without a doubt, one of the worst writers ever published. His use of the English language is simply uninteresting. I could write better prose on the subject of paint drying, and I’m an engineering major. Out of sheer boredom, and making the mistake of only bringing three of his books with me on vacation, I read DaVinci Code, Angels & Demons, and Digital Fortress. His use of words is simplistic, and his plots predictable.

Why someone would want to sue him is beyond me, as I’d rather not be associated with such awful writing. It sickens me, as a self-appointed connoisseur of literature, to see so many people wasting their time reading his crap when there are so many wonderful books out there.

vik says:

I have to agree with the past two comments. Dan Brown isn’t a very good writer, although he has improved. Brown’s appeal lies not in his ability to write good literature but in creating puzzles for the readers to try and solve. His writing is like Sudoku puzzles in text. Hence when copies significant ideas from other books to create his puzzles then he should be liable. He has blatantly copied the ‘research’ (not facts) of several authors and what is worse is that he has bastardized these facts. I can fully believe that Dan Brown copied several important themes from The Holy Blood, Holy Grail because Brown has a history of doing crappy and half assed ‘research’ practices. Just read some of his previous work (esp. Digital Fortress).

Whateva says:

Get a life.

This conspiracy theory bullshit peddled here at Techdirt is getting ridiculous. Honestly. You can’t find it in yourself to believe that someone would sue to get some dough off of someone else’s success? You have to actually make shit up about how it’s all a publicity stunt? This movie doesn’t need any publicity. The book has been a #1 NY Times bestseller since it came out, and has spawned countless TV specials and commentaries. There hasn’t been a moment when it was NOT in the news. Sometimes a lawsuit is just a lawsuit. God damn. You make the tabloid trash look good.

SMB says:

If the suit was initiated by Random House, then it is quite believable that, if nothing else, at least the timing was publicity-related. If they were planning to sue anyway, this would seem like the ideal time, to get the name of the movie in print as many times as possible. Any publicity is good publicity.

For the record, The Da Vinci Code book is complete trash. Every character has exactly one personallity trait and one emotion, and they apply it to every situation. Children’s books have more complicated characters. The only reason I finished it was to see if Brown could keep it up to the end of the story, or if he would crumble and give even one character some depth, even if just to complete the plot. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

The book definately had “Movie” written all over it. It practially read like a script, and the religious fanatics would easily stir up enough publicity for a good box-office showing.

Now if Gary Busey had been young enough to re-vamp his role in The Firm for the albino killer-guy, we would have been all set.

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