Copyright & Trademarks
Copyright is the protection of a creative work. If you create something (a poem, a story, a painting, a song), it is protected immediately, without need for registration.
Find out more here.
Why Does Copyright Matter?
Copyright is very important when you are using someone else's creative work in a public forum (like a public website, newspaper or film). Generally, you must receive permission in order to use another person's creative works.
But...if you are using a creative work in a school project that is not available to the general public, you will not need to seek permission. Iin these instances, all you need to do is cite the work, i.e. give credit where credit is due!
There are some exceptions to the copyright rules outlined above. Most notably, there is a new license called Creative Commons. Creative Commons allows the creator to set a level of permissions and use that they are comfortable with. Some sites, like Flickr, let you search based on creative commons licenses.
Fair use is a common exemption from copyright. Basically, fair use allows creative works to be used for educational purposes, research needs, commentary, reporting or parody. One cannot use a work in its entirety, as that would harm its commercial value.
Items that are out of copyright are exempt. Things created a long time ago may not be protected by copyright anymore. If you are uncertain about the copyright status, ask the librarian!
Trademarks are different than copyright. A trademark is a name, word, phrase, design, image or logo that represents an individual, business or organization. A trademark must be registered.