Under section 107 of the United States Federal Copyright Law there is a ?fair use doctrine? which allows you to cite information from another's work as long as you provide the source and give credit to that source. This is good to know for an online writer because it gives them the ability to provide references and meaningful information to those who are reading their works.
Unfortunately the Fair Use Doctrine is being pushed to the limit with many online websites, online writers and those who sell PRL articles or Private Right Label content. What these folks have been doing is collecting fragments of others works, putting them into articles and selling them to unknowing writers to put their names on. Or worse chopping up thousands of articles and putting them into databases with search features on a CR ROM for use by authors and writers to enhance their works. I had once heard of an MIT project, which took old quotes from Famous People and I suppose they were in the public domain; things that Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill had said, which author's could use.
Others are using this idea to program artificial intelligent robots to be able to interact with people. That makes sense of course now that technology is coming under fire as it clearly crosses the line of copyright laws; or does it as those who are doing this state that they are well within the law?
Some kids at Berkeley came up with Genius Software for MS Word that would do something similar and make the person look real smart. I know also there is a program that writers can buy that has little tidbits of history to make them look smart. I would hope all these would be legitimate, but I can see how a "Lazy" software programmer would simply lift sentences from News articles and use them.
Although I can tell you that a lot of reporters use these to make their stories fast too. Which makes me wonder if it is copyrighted by the news source, they are copywriting what is already copyrighted over and over again, which inevitably was stolen from someone to make the program or article in the first place. It gets rather bizarre.
The WSJ did an interesting article on the plagiarism and copywrite issues on the net too this week. As a matter of fact it was our number one most viewed topic at our online think tank forum recently. Personally, as hobbyist writer myself; I would never use these things, but for someone just starting out as a writer and to help them fill up their articles with better looking substance I can see the enticement, although if you do not know who you are getting it from you could be putting your own hand into the copyright meat grinder too.
You know this is really a bummer indeed, it is sad to see this go on. Really it takes away from those who really work hard to make their work meaningful and spend time considering how they bring across their message and really put forth the creativity to make their point or tell of important information. It is too bad this occurs. I understand why it is happening, but feel bad in the same way that many writers who have had their work stolen do about the whole thing. So consider this in 2006.