Nick Cohen usually trains his eye on the misdeeds of the government and their close acquaintainces in commerce and civil society. Strangely enough this week he's turned his attention to copyright and in particular the Da Vinci Code dispute in the High Court.
"David Hooper, a specialist in intellectual property, said the case was something new. The Holy Blood authors are not saying that Dan Brown had copied chunks of their work verbatim. Instead, they are suing him for taking some of their ideas, researching them, playing with them and turning them into a novel. If they win, Hooper believes a chill will go through cultural life as publishers face the next to impossible task of separating original thoughts from other people's thoughts.
Restricting free use of ideas is the spirit of the age. Firms have claimed copyright on plants and parts of the human genome because ideas are worth more than all other assets. The World Trade Organisation recognised this when it made international acceptance of intellectual property rights one of the central aims of the drive to globalisation in the Nineties.
I hate to be the one who has to say it, but Dan Brown needs to win. If he doesn't, free thought may be stifled in the name of protecting ideas."
We'll overlook the mangling of copyright and patent but if a flying pig should saunter by and Brown does lose the case, Cohen is right to say it has wider implications. Will free thought be stifled? I doubt it but particularly zealous copyright holders would relish the prospect of using the case as an excuse for their own excessive legal shenanigans.