It happens almost everywhere. We're looking for information on how to tell
if our pet hamster is sick and we find a number of relevant pages, only to discover
a couple of paragraphs into one of these pages that we read the exact same text
only a few pages ago on another site. We're trying to find out something about
the side effects of a particular medicine, and once again we realize that the
text is word for word what we read on another site. I tend to doubt that these
exact copies are really examples of plagiarism. It would seem instead that what's
happening is that certain information is in the public domain and numerous sources
use it. When plagiarism really does take place it's often students, or a group
of kids, who do an extensive job of copying and pasting. I'd suggest linking
instead, but I'm not sure that this is a particularly serious crime, if a crime
Sometimes, however, this word for word copying is quite a bit less innocent. Two and a half years ago I reported finding an example of uncredited copying that was to me very distressing because the people doing the copying were hoping to make money from freely available information, and because a very respectable web site was giving them free advertising by linking to them.
But whether done innocently or intentionally, by chance or by design, it's my guess that we've learned to expect these additional copies of web page content. We might even say that through our schooling we've been encouraged to accept it, perhaps even take part in it. Often we read student bibliographies that contain numerous sources that tell us exactly the same thing. We're taught that more is better, even when it's only more of the same. The internet didn't invent this situation - it just made it more prevalent.