NEW YORK (AP) – “The Da Vinci Code,” a best selling thriller, does not infringe the copyrights of a book published in 2000 by another author, a judge has ruled.

In a ruling dated Thursday, U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels said New Hampshire author Dan Brown’s story exploring codes hidden in Leonardo Da Vinci’s artwork is not substantially similar to “Daughter of God,” by author Lewis Perdue.

He said both novels tell a story based on religious and historical people, places and events but the factual details in each are quite different.

He said Brown’s book “is simply a different story” and fails to support Perdue’s infringement claim. For instance, he noted, there are no substantial similarities between any characters in the books and the heroes and heroines are different.

“Any slightly similar elements are on the level of generalized or otherwise unprotectible ideas,” the judge said as he tossed out Perdue’s claims that there were similarities to “Daughter of God.” He also ruled out violations of copyrights in “The Da Vinci Legacy.”

Brown and Random House Inc. filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan last year seeking a declaratory judgment that his work does not infringe on Perdue’s.

In a countersuit, Perdue asked the judge to rule that there was infringement and award $150 million in damages. He included among defendants various parties involved in the production of a motion picture version of Brown’s work.

Perdue had alleged that Brown copied the basic premise of “Daughter of God,” including notions that history is controlled by victors, not losers, and the importance of the Roman Emperor Constantine in requiring a transition from a female to a male dominated religion, the judge said.

He said Perdue also argued that common themes in the books included the role of the female, the church’s recasting of the great goddess as evil, the use of historical references and the fact that both novels incorporate the use of a gold key and conduct a similar discussion regarding communion.

“All of these similarities, however, are unprotectible ideas, historical facts and general themes that do not represent any original elements of Perdue’s work,” the judge said.

“Perdue has not alleged that his unique expression of these ideas and themes were copied. Ideas and general literary themes themselves are unprotectible under the copyright law,” Daniels said.

He noted that both novels discuss the Catholic Church, something that is “expected from a thriller with religious themes.”

The judge drew differences between the books.

“Although both novels at issue are mystery thrillers, “Daughter of God’ is more action-packed, with several gunfights and violent deaths,” he said.

He said “Daughter of God” also includes a perilous journey through an Austrian salt mine and sex scenes not in “The Da Vinci Code.”

“”The Da Vinci Code,’ on the other hand, is an intellectual, complex treasure hunt, focusing more on the codes, number sequences, cryptexes and hidden messages left behind as clues than on any physical adventure,” the judge wrote.

Bruce Lederman, a lawyer for Perdue, declined to comment.

Elizabeth McNamara, a lawyer for Brown, said she and her client were pleased with the decision.

“As the court found, “The Da Vinci Code’ is simply a different story than that told in Mr. Perdue’s book, “Daughter of God,”‘ she said.

AP-ES-08-05-05 1409EDT


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