Google does not punish for duplicate content. They do not punish for having a lot of links. Now, if you post links in link farms or spam people, they will get upset. If you create a great article and submit it to 400 directories (where people go to find articles to publish in their exact form
, which would be duplicate content), that is just spreading information.
Here is their video explaining duplicate content:
Sorry if I seem upset, but back links are what drive traffic to your site. Newbies are afraid to use tools that every company uses because they hear that they will get punished.