[I didn’t believe in it, to be honest, but I’m starting to think there may be something to it now, with the Panda update. Check out this thread on the Google Webmasters’ Forum, where a Googler specifically states that duplicate content is penalized: Google Blocked My MISTAKE – Webmaster Central Help]
I think you may have misunderstood the cause of his de-indexing, it was for copyright violation, not duplicate content per se. Though related, they are in fact two separate and distinct issues.
The Panda update was a tweak in the ranking algorithm that effects where a page might rank in the SERP. The problem this chap was facing was a de-indexing, likely due to copyright violation, nothing to due with ranking or the Panda update.
Google themselves are massive scrapers, Their Web Search and News products consist of entirely scraped content. As long as it is useful, adds value and provides proper attribution it can rank very well within Google’s index.
Google is not the “Internet police”, yet as an upstanding “Internet Citizen” they must comply with the law that directly applies to them.
It would be very much out of character for Google to accuse a user of their help forum of copyright violation, so It should be no surprise that they didn’t go on record exposing themselves to litigation.
Google generally leaves it to the copyright holder to make such claims and then they dutifully follow the DMCA requirements and remove the content from their index.
Source: Google Help
Again, the point I was trying to make is that this poor fellow wasn’t having a ranking issue, his entire website had been de-indexed which is a good indicator that the website had serious violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.