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I'd like to start a site which publishes press releases from a particular niche industry. Is it safe to publish press releases (even ones which are published on other sites) or would this constitute copied content?
You should always use fresh content for better benefit.
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I agree that copied content is not always good. Unique content is much better.
.... or just spin the copied articles (blackhat seo)
Most likely, these press releases would count as duplicate content and would not really be the best idea for your website or blog. Chances are, the press releases have appeared on other sites. You could try supplementing each press release with additional information on the company being advertised, such as a wiki style on each page. Or, simply excerpt the press release. You could fully rewrite the press release, though some companies might object.
I thing daily use niche article post in press releases not use any duplicate content.
As long as you create your own content, there 'd be no problem. If you found difficult to write own content, try to spin the content[extreme cases]. I recommend to appoint a person for content writing
Google says that press releases should be nofollow now. I'd imagine the ones that are do follow now have a penalty associated with them but I do not know that for sure.
They did penalize some of my friends websites for rewriting a press release article.