Whether you're looking for media to use in a class project, a TikTok you're creating for fun, or a website you're developing for your new business, a basic understanding of copyright will save you from the legal percussions of copyright infringement, which can range from having your work taken down to being sued and taken to court.
Copyright is a collection of rights that automatically belong to the creator of an original work. This includes the right to distribute the work, edit or adapt it, create any derivatives of the work, or to display or publicly perform it. The most important thing to understand is that if something is under copyright, it is illegal to use it without permission from the owner. There are some exceptions to this rule under fair use doctrine, which allows people to use copyrighted work without permission for the purposes of criticism, commentary, news reporting, and education.
Because it's always best to be cautious with copyright, if you are searching for media to use in a project and you don't have a budget to pay someone for their work, you should only use works that are a part of the public domain or that are creative commons licensed (covered in other sections of this guide).
For a brief overview of copyright, public domain, and fair use, watch the video below.