WHAT IS COPYRIGHT FOR?
When you or someone else creates something and documents it in some type of physical or digital form (you made it or wrote it down or created it using a computer application for others to see, etc.), that original work is yours and no one else can copy it or use it as if it were their own.
WHAT IS FAIR USE?
"Fair Use" is a policy that allows people to use other people's copyrighted material under limited circumstances.
As a student, you may use the work of published authors (images, quotes, ideas) in your work as long as you acknowledge the creator, use only necessary portions, do not alter the work, and do not use the material for monetary gain.
THE LEGAL STUFF
§ 102 · Subject matter of copyright: In general
(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:
§ 107 · Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism,
comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to
be considered shall include—