Google has a new Webmaster Help video out about content that takes text from other sources. Specifically, Matt Cutts responds to this question:
Hi Matt, can a site still do well in Google if I copy only a small portion of content from different websites and create my own article by combining it all, considering I will mention the source of that content (by giving their URLs in the article)?
"Yahoo especially used to really hate this particular technique," says Cutts. "They called it 'stitching'. If it was like two or three sentences from one article, and two or three sentences from another article, and two or three sentences from another article, they really considered that spam. If all you're doing is just taking quotes from everybody else, that's probably not a lot of added value. So I would really ask yourself: are you doing this automatically? Why are you doing this? Why? People don't just like to watch a clip show on TV. They like to see original content."
I don't know. SportsCenter is pretty popular, and I don't think it's entirely for all the glowing commentary. It's also interesting that he's talking about this from Yahoo's perspective.
"They don't just want to see an excerpt and one line, and then an excerpt and one line, and that sort of thing," Cutts continues. "Now it is possible to pull together a lot of different sources, and generate something really nice, but you're usually synthesizing. For example, Wikipedia will have stuff that's notable about a particular topic, and they'll have their sources noted, and they cite all of their sources there, and they synthesize a little bit, you know. It's not like they're just copying the text, but they're sort of summarizing or presenting as neutral of a case as they can. That's something that a lot of people really enjoy, and if that's the sort of thing that you're talking about, that would probably be fine, but if you're just wholesale copying sections from individual articles, that's probably going to be a higher risk area, and I might encourage you to avoid that if you can."
If you're creating good content that serves a valid purpose for your users, my guess is that you'll be fine, but you know Google hates anything automated when it comes to content.