If I'm going to describe the origin of the word "dinosaur" and I say that the taxon Dinosauria was formally named in 1841 by paleontologist Sir Richard Owen, and that the foregoing description is copied and pasted directly from Wikipedia (which it is), I think we can agree that it's:
- a type of plagiarism.
- improper, possibly dishonest or negligent in not attributing the source.
- violates the license terms of Wikipedia's content, which is (roughly speaking) CC BY-SA.
If I paraphrased the quote using my own words I think we can agree to points 1 and 2, but maybe not point 3 (I'm not sure, maybe someone can clarify).
The tricky thing about this is summed up in the following question:
Assuming that nearly all my knowledge is accumulated by reading books and hearing things (whether publications, broadcasts, or people) which may be copyrighted or have license terms, in what circumstances could content that I publish reasonably be assumed to not need attribution?
Following on from that, I can say from my general knowledge that the speed of light in a vacuum is about 186,000 miles (or 300,000 km) per second. However if I wanted to give a more precise figure I would look it up either in an encyclopedia or in a dictionary and round it off to the closest mile or kilometer per second. Once I've checked about 5 sources to get a more precise figure, I would be tempted either to pick one and attribute the one source, or simply state that figure without attribution either because I might feel it's a number that I've learned or the number I've arrived at is synthesized from about 6 sources, and simply don't want to cite each one.
Probably a better example is the meaning of a word. In a personal creative work I might give the meaning of the word "rapprochement". I may feel I can already give a good definition because I know the meaning of it. But just to be sure I consult 5 dictionaries, maybe some other sources, and formulate a definition based on a synthesis from my previous general knowledge and the recent sources I consulted. In circumstances such as these what are the obligations to cite a source for your information? I guess the question is based on the fact that nearly all knowledge is sourced from something or someone that/who was not you, and I'm just wondering whether I'm wrong in thinking that I don't need to attribute a source if I'm telling you something that I read in an article yesterday. After all, I don't need to attribute a source, for plagiarism or license violations purposes, for something I know from reading an article five years ago, or from reading from Collins Dictionary five years ago.
Also, I can say the four largest moons of Jupiter were discovered in 1610. I had to look that up, but no one knows that, nor where I got that information from.
I'm talking purely from a legal point of view. I realize that if I say something it's in my interests to give citations of where I got that information from just for the purpose of appearing trustworthy, but I'm not talking about that. I'm purely talking about legal obligations.