I might be stepping on some toes with this one. Apologies in advance. That being said, I'm pretty confident that the law, as well as some basic standards of fairness back me up on this.
There have been a few articles posted recently about the issue of original content (or lack thereof on Gather). Some commenters have expressed confusion about what, exactly, the rules are.
Here's the quick and easy version.
Copyright law protects EVERYTHING, whether it has a copyright symbol attached to it or not. The only exception is works of a certain age (the short version of this is 70 years after the death of the author/artist).
Therefore, if you are COPYING written work or photos/artwork, you are breaking the law unless:
It's your own work (or you otherwise own the copyright legally).
You have explicit permission directly from the creator of the work to reprint it.
The creator of the work has publicly given explicit permission for others to use it (sometimes you will see something called a "Creative Commons" license attached to a work, which serves to give this permission with varying degrees of restrictions placed on the use).
The work is old enough to be in the "Public Domain" (again, the rule of thumb is 70 years after the death of the creator).
The above applies to images, and writing that is copied word-for-word. Notice that it is NOT okay to copyÂ something if you cite the source, and it is NOT okay to copy something as long as you're not using it to make money. These are two major copyright myths.
The citing of sources comes up when you write your own material based on information you got elsewhere. In such a case you may use the information rewritten in your own words as long as you cite the source.
There is also something called "Fair Use", which gets a bit more complicated, but essentially allows you to insert small portions of a work as quotes into your own original work, again provided you properly cite sources.
My source for some of the information in this article was the US Copyright office at www.copyright.gov.