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3:21pm Tuesday 14th November 2006 in Your Computer
There is common misconception that information in the public domain (particularly on the Internet) is available for anyone to use. This is simply not the case.
In most cases the creator of the work, the writer in the case of textual content and the photographer in the case of pictures, enjoys automatic protection regardless of whether they have any copyright notice. You may not use their work without their express permission.
This even includes copying large chunks of text for school homework projects and certainly means you must not copy text from another website onto your own.
How can you tell whether your own site has been copied? Try copying a portion of your text into Google and adding quotes at each end - e.g. "some unique text from my own web site between these quotes" - if there are pages listed from sites other than yours, take a look and see if they have copied your content.
Why does it matter? Well quite apart from the fact that they are benefiting from all your hard work, search engines don't like listing duplicate content and if they favour your competitor's version of your text rather than your own site then you are probably loosing business.