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Copying my work

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I recently experienced two cases of my work being copied by others. One was my woodworking writing being copied, the other my woodworking itself. Both turned out fine.

In the first instance, I had done a good bit of preliminary work for a book a few years ago, but when it was green-lighted I was no longer available so they got someone else. No problem; it happens. But when the book came out I was shocked to see that they used every bit of that work I’d done as part of it – without authorization, without credit, and without payment. And that is a problem. After more than 18 months of back-and-forth e-mails, the publisher was convinced that he would lose big-time if I went through with my threats of a lawsuit and he wisely, if belatedly, agreed to a settlement.

In the case of my woodworking being copied, I couldn’t have been more pleased when I found out. A reader of my Civil War book sent me an e-mail last week telling me how much he liked the book and that he’d already made a number of the projects in it. The e-mail included photos of a few of them, and that was an interesting experience: I got a chance to see how another woodworker interpreted my designs and how-to instructions. What’s more, he’d done a fine job on the projects.

There’s an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Sometimes – as in when the imitation amounts to uncompensated plagiarism – that just doesn’t apply. And while I was extremely pleased to put a nice check into my bank account in the first case (especially in this economy), I have to admit that I got a much bigger kick out of the second case.

In that instance, the old saying just couldn’t be truer.

Till next time,


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