So I just blogged a little about what constitutes "fair use" and how it's all debatable. On this note, I want to talk about plagarism. Now I'm not really interested about talking about the law, per say, but rather what you were taught.
In high school, I had a strict English teacher who said anything up to and beyond "three distinct words" was plagarism. Now that didn't include proper nouns and such. So "the United States of America" only counted as one distinct word. But you couldn't lift the words "(1)detrimental to the (2)country's (3)future" from a source without a direct quote. Now, granted, even if you took the gist of the material and reworded it, you still had to attribute it with an endnote, but we're talking quotes, not endnotes.
When I got to college, it would be junior year before I heard any teacher address how many words you could get away with, but I was very surprised to hear my prof say "10 words." Whaaaat? 10 words? Heaven!!!
So ignore the law for now. Just let me know what you were taught back in the day. How many words could you use in sequence before you had to quote?
Mrs. Walker, my high school English teacher
(who is still teaching today at my school).
I was quite the troublemaker and
would often test her nerves.