Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Smithy Code: Who says the law's no fun?

Bravo to Mr. Justice Peter Smith, the judge who presided over the recent copyright case involving Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and the authors of the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Essentially, the latter claimed that the former had plagiarised the central theme of their book and, as it was now an international bestseller, wanted their slice of the pie.

The case itself seems to have been pretty much open and shut, with the expected finding that no copyright infringement had taken place. However, the judgement itself is written with no small degree of humour at points (Thanks to The Virtual Stoa, via the Valve, for flagging these passages). For example, in discussing the performance in the witness box by Michael Baigent, one of the claimants, he notes that "Mr Baigent was a poor witness. Those are not my words: they are the words of his own counsel in his written closing submissions... Those words do not, in my view, do justice to the inadequacy of Mr Baigent's performance" (para. 231). he then went on to note (para. 232) that

... the Defendants are right in their submissions... to submit that he was a thoroughly unreliable witness. They say they do not know whether he was deliberately trying to mislead the court or was simply deluded and that he is either extremely dishonest or a complete fool. I do not need to decide that issue...

The judge, however, has not confined his fun to a few asides in the judgment. Many lawyers reading it were a little bemused at first by what seemed to be a number of typos - a number of apparently random letters in words italicised - right from the very start of the judgment. However, when taken out from the text and arrayed in order, the first ten italicised letters form the words "smithy code". The judge has since acknowledged that he couldn't resist, given the subject-matter of the case before him. He noted, quite rightly in my view, "I don't see why a judgment should not be a matter of fun".

The Guardian suggests that there are an additional 25 letters italicised in this manner in the first 14 pages of the document - I think I've found a few more, but make no claims to exhaustiveness: J a e i e x t o s t g p s a c g r e a m q w k a d p m q z. Of course, the italicised letters may not be the only clue in the text, and their location in context may also be significant, but I've wasted enough time on this already...


Anonymous said...

The complete code:

Moulton said...

I'm guessing it's a polyalphabetic or Vigenere code with 'smithycode' as the key.

If so, someone should have the solution pretty fast.