Copyright and fair use

Had a bit of a strange experience with copyright recently (no, I am not being sued by the RIAA or MPAA or any similar organization). I started working on my final project for my Photoshop class (still 6 weeks left so I'm really early on this) and I was looking online for some images to use in the project. In particular, I was looking for pictures of gears to incorporate into the image. I found a few basic graphics but a lot of the other stuff I found was more artistic. For some reason I was really bothered by the idea of ripping off another artist's work for my own image. What's particularly odd about this is that the week before I had no problem with ripping off 50+ images from the net to use in another project for the class. In that case though, I was looking for journalistic pictures. I briefly thought about the copyright issues involved in using other people's photos for that project but dismissed my concerns because I knew what I was doing would be considered "fair use". The same would be true for the pictures of gears I was looking for but it felt wrong to use them. I think the primary issue was that the pictures of gears seemed much more artistic or creative than the news photos I used for the other project. It felt wrong to be using someone else's creative efforts in my own project. However, that's not to say that there isn't creativity involved in getting good news photos. It's interesting because I obviously have some type of division between artistic photos and news photos in my mind but I was never really made aware of it before. I'm still not exactly sure where I draw the line.

I suppose I could go even further with this and look at my beliefs with regards to other copyrighted media and what my beliefs around piracy are. I'm not entirely sure why I should feel that using someone else's work in a fair use situation should be morally objectionable while I feel no moral objections to-wards some forms of copyright violation. I think I'll save that discussion for another day though.