Loree Lough

With nearly three million books sold, best-selling author Loree Lough’s titles have earned 4- and 5-star reviews and dozens of awards. Reviewers and readers alike call her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel From Ashes to Honor (#1 in First Responders series, Abingdon) hits bookshelves to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Loree lives near Baltimore and loves spending time at her teeny tiny cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves to show off her talent for correctly identifying critter tracks. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

Loree's Lough Down

Remember That Tune?

Ah, February, that strange little month when heart-shaped greeting cards and candy boxes, and love-struck fellas proffer red roses or diamond solitaires, while in the background Sam Cooke croons, “Cupid, draw back your bo-o-ow . . .”

If I had my way, I’d tell the chubby little cherub to aim his dart at the behinds of plagiarists!

Yes, I know, harsh language, especially coming from the author of faith-based romance novels. But the subject is fresh in my mind, thanks to the question posed during the last how-to-write class I taught:

“So, Loree, has anyone ever plagiarized your work?”

Before I tell you how I answered, let’s take a moment to redefine what, exactly, plagiarism is: “The act of stealing and using as one’s own the ideas or the expression of the ideas of another” (Scribner-Bantam Dictionary). In simpler terms: If you didn’t write it, but you said you did, it’s plagiarism.

Copyright law specifies how many words, lines, paragraphs you can “borrow” without plagiarizing. It also sets forth clear-cut rules outlining how (i.e. footnotes and quotes that identify the true author and the source of the material) you can use others’ words when writing your own.

For example, I’ve written lots of nonfiction: more than 2,500 articles under my byline, and close to a hundred more “ghosted” in professional journals. I can count on one hand (and have fingers left over) the number of times I sought permission to quote other writers’ works. For the most part, I wrote my own stuff and did my own research. But on those rare occasions when I “borrowed” others’ words, I gave credit where credit was due. Unfortunately, that isn’t the type of “borrowing” I’d like to see Cupid take aim at . . . well, there’s really no point (pardon the pun) in restating the obvious, right?

Taking somebody else’s property—whether it’s written/published words or a jacket from a restaurant coatroom—is stealing. And stealing is a crime. And in the eyes of most God-fearing human beings, it’s also a sin.

Having experienced firsthand what it’s like to have my hard work stolen and passed off as someone else’s (hereinafter referred to as My Thief), I understand only too well the frustration, anger, and helplessness other plagiarized authors feel.

So what to do?

I could sue My Thief . . . and fritter away my hard-earned money (but that could take years, and at my age, I can’t afford to waste one precious minute).

I could confront My Thief and hope for an admission of guilt (and if that isn’t an example of an exercise in futility, I don’t know what is).

Far better to take comfort in the old adage “What goes around, comes around.”

All criminals think they’re above the law, smarter than the rest of us, able to avoid being pegged for who and what they are, with no price to pay. You might say, “It’s what narcissists do.” And My Thief is no exception. But that smug mind-set is precisely what tripped up Dr. Richard Owen, Stephen Ambrose, and yes, even H. G. Wells. Sooner or later, the truth will trip up My Thief, too.

But until it does, here’s my advice to him:

No matter how cleverly you try to disguise them, stolen words will never ever be yours.

If you steal, you’re a thief.

If you’re a thief, you’re gonna get caught.

And when you do, I’ll be front and center, whistlin’ and clappin’ when the world learns the truth. And I’ll be directing Cupid’s aim.

I imagine that’s when you’ll belt out a line from Jon Foreman’s song: “I tried to find a cure for the pain.”


Honor Redeemed