Plagiarize: verb; To steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one's own.
--Miriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
All writers should have a basic understanding of the crime of plagiarism and how to avoid it. Just one act of plagiarism, no matter how minor, can utterly destroy a writer's career.
In the past few years it seems to be an increasingly commonplace crime. In just the past few years, we've seen a rash of high-profile instances of plagiarism. One young writer, Kaavya Viswanathan, destroyed her career before it got off the ground. Doris Kearns Goodwin, once a highly-regarded historian, instantly and permanently lost much of her credibility because of a plagiarism controversy. And war writer Stephen Ambrose ruined his legacy after examples of plagiarism surfaced in several of his books. Most recently, several obvious examples of plagiarism contaminated Chris Anderson's book Free.
If you're lucky, the material you write today will someday be read by millions. But if you plagiarize, one of those millions of readers will catch you. Know the difference between plagiarism and borrowing ideas with dignity. Don't make an unethical decision you'll regret.