'Holy' authors contest U.K. court ruling

The controversy over author Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” rumbles on in Blighty: Historians Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who in April lost their plagiarism case against Random House, the British publishers of Brown’s bestseller, lodged an appeal on Tuesday.

The duo, who claim Brown lifted their research from their nonfiction tome “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” were ordered to pay Random House $2 million in costs and foot their own legal bill of $1.5 million. Random House also published “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” in 1982.

No date for the appeal has been set, but it has been earmarked for early 2007.

“We have the utmost respect for the British legal system and acknowledge Baigent and Leigh’s right to appeal the ruling in the ‘DVC’ case,” a Random House spokesman told Reuters. “We regret, however, that more time and money is being spent trying to establish a case that was so comprehensively defeated in the High Court.”

On the stand in the High Court, Brown called the pair’s claims “simply untrue” and “absurd” and said he was “shocked” by the allegations.

The massive popularity of “The Da Vinci Code” as book and film has sent sales of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” steadily north. Both tomes put forward the theory that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene and their descendents are alive today.

The uncomfortable bedfellows continue to appear alongside one another on “Code” promotional bookstands across Blighty.

The High Court case had threatened to upset Sony’s release date for the Ron Howard-helmed pic. It went on to take in $55 million in the territory despite poor reviews and competition from World Cup soccer throughout June, and is finally bowing to box office gravity after eight weeks packing the plexes.

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