Judge Hints at Code in 'Da Vinci' Ruling
By JENNIFER QUINN
LONDON - The judge who presided at the "Da Vinci Code" copyright
infringement trial has put a code of his own into his ruling, and he said
Wednesday he would "probably" confirm it to the person who breaks it.
Since Judge Peter Smith delivered his ruling April 7, lawyers in London and
New York began noticing odd italicizations in the 71-page document.
In the weeks afterward, would-be code-breakers got to work on deciphering
"I can't discuss the judgment," Smith said in a brief conversation with The
Associated Press, "but I don't see why a judgment should not be a matter of
Italics are placed in strange spots: The first is found in the first
paragraph of the 360-paragraph document. The letter "s" in the word
"claimants" is italicized.
In the next paragraph, "claimant" is spelled with an italicized "m," and so on.
The italicized letters in the first seven paragraphs spell out "Smithy
code," playing on the judge's name.
Lawyer Dan Tench, with the London firm Olswang, said he noticed the code
when he spotted the striking italicized script in an online copy of the
"To encrypt a message in this manner, in a High Court judgment no less?
It's out there," Tench said. "I think he was getting into the spirit of the
thing. It doesn't take away from the validity of the judgment. He was just
having a bit of fun."
Smith was arguably the highlight of the trial, with his acerbic questions
and witty observations making the sometimes dry testimony more lively.
Though Smith on Wednesday refused to discuss the judgment or acknowledge
outright that he'd inserted a secret code in its pages, he said: "They
don't look like typos, do they?"
When asked if someone would break the code, Smith said: "I don't know. It's
not a difficult thing to do." And when asked if he would confirm a correct
guess to an aspiring code-breaker, he said, "Probably."
Tench said the judge teasingly remarked that the code is a mixture of the
italicized font code found in the book "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail"
_ whose authors were suing Dan Brown's publisher, Random House, for
copyright infringement _ and the code found Brown's "The Da Vinci Code."
Authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh had sued Random House Inc.,
claiming Brown's best-selling novel "appropriated the architecture" of
their 1982 nonfiction book, "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail."
Both books explore theories that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, the couple
had a child and the bloodline survives, ideas dismissed by most historians
"The Da Vinci Code" has sold more than 40 million copies _ including 12
million hardcovers in the United States _ since its release in March 2003.
It came out in paperback in the United States earlier this year, and
quickly sold more than 500,000 copies. An initial print run of 5 million
has already been raised to 6 million.
Since the judgment was handed down three weeks ago, Tench said it took
several weeks _ and several watchful eyes _ to catch the code. Now, London
and New York attorneys are scrambling to solve it.
"I think it has caught the particular imagination of Americans," Tench
said. "To have a British, staid High Court judge encrypt a judgment in this
manner, it's jolly fun."
I'm definitely going to try to break the code," said attorney Mark
Stephens, when learning of its existence.
"Judges have been known to write very sophisticated and amusing judgments,"
Stephens said. "This trend started long ago ... one did a judgment in
rhyme, another in couplets. There has been precedent for this.
"It adds a bit of fun of what might have been a dusty text," he said.
On the Net:
A service of the Associated Press(AP)
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