According to the Library of Congress, "copyright refers to the author's (creators of all sorts such as writers, photographers, artists, film producers, composers, and programmers) exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and publicly perform and display their works."
Finding Media That is Okay To Use
Almost everything is copyrighted and requires permission from its author to use. There are, however, some exceptions:
"Specially-licensed" - There is a lot of media that has been made available for anyone to use, waiving the need to obtain direct permission from the author. For example, a very common license is an "Attribution" license, meaning that you can use the media for any purpose as long as you give credit to the creator somewhere in your work. The non-profit organization Creative Commons offers a variety of attribution licenses that creators apply to their work to make available for public use. Learn more about Creative Commons licensing. Search for works with a Creative Commons license.
"Fair Use" is a provision in US copyright law that imposes limits and exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright owners.
It means that you can use copyright-protected media without asking for permission if it is considered for a fair purpose, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
Fair Use Guidelines for student projects:
Always give full credit - In your citation you should include the creator, title of the work, date of publication, and URL. (Note: "youtube.com" should never be cited as the creator - it is always the user or company who made the original content)
Only use a small amount (e.g. 5-10 seconds of video or music)
If shared online, make your video private. Do not make your project publicly-available -- for example, there are settings in Youtube.com to make videos "unlisted" so that only people with a link will ever see your video.