Last Spring, I wrote a series of posts about Blogging Law and Etiquette, and one of the topics covered was "Fair Use." While the fair use law does protect bloggers in cases where they use material found elsewhere on the web, the law does not protect plagiarism.
Grammar Girl has a great post this week on this topic, What is Plagiarism? She defines it as:
Plagiarism is the act of presenting the words or ideas of someone else as if they are your own words or ideas; in other words, it’s not giving credit where credit is due--and that’s bad...especially when the plagiarized work is submitted for a grade or appears in a publication.
Grammar Girl's post is mostly addressing the topic from the academic standpoint, and even includes an example of a student plagiarizing himself. Fortunately, in blogging, you can plagiarize yourself (recycle your content) all you want, but you still cannot plagiarize the work of others.
In blogging, we also don't typically adhere to the same style guides that are used in academia. Instead, we use pingbacks (a.k.a. trackbacks), which are hyperlinks back to the original source if it is posted online (as I've done above, linking to Grammar Girl's post).
In the case where we're quoting from or re-using a bit of print media that is not published online, the citation rules are rather informal (i.e., Your citation does not need to be in APA or MLA format), but you DO need to explain very clearly where you got the material. I usually try to find the book on Amazon or wherever it's being sold and link to that.
In blogging, there is an additional benefit to linking to your sources, besides simply reserving your integrity, self respect, and legal standing. Linking to reputable bloggers and websites helps you build page rank, which I've written about extensively on the WebRev blog. Basically, as a blogger, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing the right thing.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.