I don't think finer points of US copyright laws should even enter into this discussion. The content described by OP is by definition not original, sounds like a no-brainer that it should not be ranking [much]. We have to assume the content was acquired legally (else a site as prominent as Ehow would bleed dry through lawsuits) and yet 'legal' does not mean 'good quality' or even 'proper'. Should not rank ahead of the source, period.
It would be simple to deal with this manually, I think, but G is not willing to do it. And when you become as large as eHow or Pinterest, you probably overwhelm all the fine algo tweaking factors Google might throw at you. Perhaps there's a point where only manual intervention will do, and it's never going to happen - it took eHow all of 4-5 months to recover and come ahead from the first Panda hit in 2011 which was supposedly aimed squarely at them (by name!) - a content farm.