From Small Business Trends:
Using a Work with a Creative Commons License Published by Someone Else
Now, let’s imagine that you maintain a blog for your small business. You need to include images with your blog posts because all of the blogging experts and research studies show that blog posts with images perform better than blog posts without images.
You don’t have a budget for images, so you search on Flickr and choose images that have Creative Commons Attribution licenses applied to them that allow commercial use (because your small business blog is a commercial property). You follow the instructions on the Creative Commons website to appropriately attribute the image to its owner and identify the Creative Commons license. You assume you’ve done everything right and that you’ve followed all of the necessary rules so you won’t be accused of copyright infringement in the future.
Sounds good right? Not always.
What happens when you receive the Getty Images Demand Letter like so many other bloggers and small businesses have in the past several years? What happens when the real owner of the work (who is not the person who uploaded it to Flickr and applied a Creative Commons license to it) contacts you and demands compensation?
Again, there are problems that are very likely to arise in the future.
. . . .
Creative Commons Won’t Help You if You Have Problems
The Creative Commons organization absolves itself of any problems you might encounter with one of its licenses in the future within its terms saying, “Creative Commons gives no warranties regarding its licenses … disclaims all liability for damages resulting from their use to the fullest extent possible … is not a party to its public licenses.” If something goes wrong, you’re on your own.
The Creative Commons License on Someone Else’s Work Might Not Be Valid
A big problem with Creative Commons licenses is the fact that anyone can apply them to any work. For example, many of the Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr, Google, and sites that aggregate images weren’t uploaded by the owners of the images. The Creative Commons licenses applied by the people who uploaded the images (but don’t own them) are completely invalid! If you use one of these improperly licensed images, you very well might get caught and find yourself on the losing end of an expensive copyright infringement lawsuit.
Link to the rest at Small Business Trends
PG will add that organizations that own and licenses large numbers of copyrights on images of all sorts can use the same image search techniques you use with Google Images, likely on an automated basis, to sort through the zillions of web sites online, including your author’s website and the product listings of online bookstores to find images that have some degree of similarity to an image for which the organization owns the license (usually assigned by the creator or the owner if the image is a work made for hire).
Images that are no longer protected by copyright are safe to use, but you’ll want to make certain that the image of Big Ben you choose from the many, many other photos is, in fact, the one shot by the photographer whose copyright is expired or the painter of similar vintage.