When I was a little more of an SEO newbie I would pay more close attention to the so-called "penalties" that Google would supposedly slap your site with.
I would let that fear stop me from experimenting with new strategies or bending the rules.
But the more experienced I became the more I started to ignore all the noise and propaganda published by some of the popular SEO blogs and authority sites.
One of the most common myths that exists in regards to content is using duplicate content.
While the idea of using duplicate might sound like grounds for Google to penalize your site, you first have to think about just how common using duplicate content is with other news channels and media.
Almost all forms of media: tv, radio, and newspaper have content that is syndicated across their platform - which means it's not original.
And the Internet is no different.
There's so many websites and blogs out there, so it's no coincidence that a lot of them are going to be saying the same exact things some of the time.
Here is a link to a video that shows evidence of this with television news stations.
So, I do believe the idea of being penalized because of using duplicate content is a myth...
However, if you are considering swiping content from another blog or source...
Then I would highly encourage you to at least put it in your own words.
This is where content spinners come in.
Now, you may have heard bad things about spin rewriting softwares and tools in the past...
But that's because most don't do a very great job of selecting the best synonyms to make the content readable or make much sense to a human.
Which is why I recommend manually spinning your content.
This can be done with free spinner tools like this one.
So, in short...don't be afraid of using duplicate content or getting hit with SEO penalties when creating your sites.
Just use a little bit of common sense.
Basically, the one question you want to keep asking yourself when incorporating any strategy into your sites is "does this seem natural or normal?"
If the answer is YES, it's probably ok.
If the answer is NO, then it's probably something you should avoid.