Plagiarism is becoming a huge issue as the internet gets bigger. The internet is massive, and a lot of webmasters appear to think nothing of grabbing other peoples content - after all who'd notice...? Not only does having your content copied and rebranded irritate those of us that take the time and degree of pride in creating good content, but it can seriously damage search engine rankings.
A case in point, recently an insurance client of ours noticed that a number of their primary pages had lost its "cache" in Google. The cache is essentially a copy of what Google's robot crawlers saw when they last visited a page. So not having a cache usually means that Google isn't visiting the page, or has found another page with the same content and is prioritising its attention on that. It didn't take long identifying the offending page; it was sat on a domain owned by one of the clients recently appointed affiliates. He had copied the client's pages (or at least the ones he felt appropriate) and uploaded them to his own site. Suffice to say a sharply worded email and the offending page was removed, as was his rights to continue as an affiliate.
We ourselves are not immune, writing about search and internet marketing has meant that over the last couple of years we have had to fight many battles with webmasters passing off our content as their own. The search engines want web site owners to produce informative, authoritative content. But they fail to support the originator of that content; they have explained in the past that because their crawlers saw the plagiarised content after the original, it is deemed to be the most up to date.
The internet is still very much a grey area to many people, and a little knowledge is dangerous. I think many webmasters are still under the impression that the process of search engine optimisation is all about the code and text on the page. Whilst this is still the case to a degree, high rankings often come more from the networks you circulate in and inbound links you acquire.
Matt Paines is the MD and Search engine optimisation expert of XSEO