(Mar. 7) -- An author who is suing the publishers of the best-selling thriller "The Da Vinci Code" admitted in court Tuesday to exaggerating his claims that the novel borrowed from his own work.
Authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh contend parts of their 1982 nonfiction book "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail," formed the basis of Dan Brown's novel, which has sold more than 40 million copies and has been made into a film starring Tom Hanks.
The lawsuit against Random House resumed Tuesday at London's High Court after a weeklong break to give the judge time to read both books and related materials.
If the writers succeed in securing an injunction to bar the use of their material, they could hold up the film's scheduled May 19 release.
Both books hinge on the theory that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and they had a child, and that the blood line survives to this day. The earlier book set out the notion that Jesus did not die on the cross but lived later in France.
James Baldwin, a lawyer for Random House, publisher of "The Da Vinci Code," asked Baigent on Tuesday about claims in his witness statement that 15 points central to the plot of Brown's book were taken from the earlier book.
Baigent relied on book reviews to back up his claim in the statement, given to the court before the trial started.
"That is simply false," Baldwin said, suggesting to Baigent that many of the book reviews did not discuss the central themes he claimed were copied from his work.
After a pause, Baigent responded: "In that case, you are correct ... I think my language was infelicitous and I think I have to agree with you on that."
The day's proceedings were punctuated with long silences as Baigent peered over his black-rimmed glasses at the lawyers, before he conceded that many of his claims may have been incorrect.
Midway through the hearing, Judge Peter Smith asked Baigent how he came to retract so many points from a statement that he had signed only hours earlier.
"It means I did not read them (book reviews) with the correct assiduity as I should have done," Baigent said.
Brown is expected to testify later this week.
Lawyers for Random House have said ideas about the life and legacy of Jesus Christ are so general they are not protected by copyright.
Baigent and Leigh's lawyers say they were not attempting to claim a monopoly on ideas or historical debate but instead to prove Brown "relied heavily" on the earlier work, published in Britain in 1982 and then in the United States the following year.
The book's third author, Henry Lincoln, is not involved in the case. Lincoln, who is in his 70s and reportedly in poor health, could not be reached for comment.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Paul Sutton, refused to comment.
The case is being heard in the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand, a short walk from the Temple Church, which figures in Brown's book. The church, founded by the Knights Templars, has reported an increase in visitor traffic inspired by "The Da Vinci Code."
Brown's book also was the target of a previous U.S. lawsuit. In 2005, a U.S. judge in New York ruled that his book did not infringe on the copyrights of "Daughter of God," by Lewis Perdue. The judge also ruled out any copyright violations of Perdue's 1983 novel "The Da Vinci Legacy."