*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.
Copyright and licensing are difficult to understand, but there are resources on the web that will at least ease the burden of understading. There is a site called ChooseALicense that can help with understanding open source licenses. This article on SmashingMagazine also provides a nice overview of copyright and licensing.
The importance of this is that developer and IT staff need to understand these to be effective at their job. As OSS becomes more prominent, it already is in my opinion, then understanding of these will only be in more demand. If you are thinking of open sourcing a project, please make sure to choose a license. If you do not choose a license then you still hold the copyright and you are not giving your users any protection. Another note to keep in mind is that a contributor agreement is nice to have to insure that any contributors give their copyright over to the project. Apache license is great for this since it contains a contributor agreement.