Being a teacher of media literacy, I continuously stress the importance of copyright usage to my students. No matter what application (class demo, video project, web project, graphic design) the medium is used in, I expect my students to follow all copyright laws when utilizing photos, videos, music, etc.
Currently, I have two practices (I would love to hear about other ideas that I could use):
1. My students contact the artist, publication house, music label, etc. to get permission from the organization/artist to use the media. This provides students an opportunity to learn how to write professional emails, business memos, practice telephone etiquette, polish their research and time-management skills, and to identify the intricacies of copyright usage.
2. If they cannot get permission from the appropriate copyright holder, then they are to either (a) create/design the media themselves or (b) use creative commons to retrieve what they are looking for.
In the broadcast news class, the student producers and writers have been using creative commons since the beginning of the school year. It is amazing how much free media is available for them to use. They have used it to design over-the-shoulder graphics, video for b-roll (that they can't capture themselves), and music to lay under features.
I think CC is a great tool to use, especially in an educational setting. Alicia asked, "Could this help or hinder their understanding and respect of copyright law?" My answer is simple: Educate our students on copyright law and model YOUR knowledge of it (basically, don't break the law and show them how to access copyrighted information legally). Once you have done that, using CC can definitely help the students to not only understand the law, but also respect it.