The Microsoft Clip Art Gallery provides a compilation of artwork for your personal use. The following guidelines apply to your personal use of clip art:
You may use clip art in your school assignments and projects.
You may use clip art in your church brochure.
You may use clip art for personal, noncommercial uses.
You may not use clip art to advertise your business.
You may not use clip art to create a company logo.
You may not use clip art to illustrate the chapters of a book.
Microsoft licenses artwork from third parties and cannot grant permission for you to redistribute the artwork. If you need artwork that you can redistribute, our Clip Art partners at Office Online provide a variety of images you can license.
So, I'm going to say, don't use clip art on your book cover. My understanding is that it's not legal, and then secondly, I personally think it might make your book look really amateurish. If you want free photos, try a site like sxc.hu
I have to agree. Clip art is a serious red flag to buyers and most people can spot it a mile away because it looks so obvious. Unless you are trying to use it in a satirical fashion, I would advise to not use clip art under any circumstances for a book cover. It just screams cheap, poor quality, amateur, worthless, etc.
Or better yet, just use images from the internet, spruce them up with a filter or whatever. As long as they aren't too obvious, it can fall under fair use if you do it right. I have an entire book filled with collage illustrations that I took from here an there and did not pay a dime for any of them. Many people don't realize just how far you can get away with fair use if you know how to play the game right.
Probably not illegal, but almost certainly actionable. Fair use regarding images is going to be pretty much non-existant, because the image is the entire work. It's even possible for pictures you take yourself to be unusable. You can't take a picture of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and stick it in a book, for instance, without getting clearance from the Rock Hall, because the building itself is covered and they don't allow commercial use of the images without permission.
As for web images, there's very little on the web that isn't covered by copyright. Even if the actual image went into the public doman years ago, the photograph or scan that's on the web page is probably new and has its own copyright protection. This is why museums don't let you take pictures inside. If you want a picture of the painting, they want to sell you one of theirs. If you want to use the painting in a book, they want you to buy the image from them.
The law is a little less clear on partial images. There was a Dutch internet porn dealer a few years back who discovered that Dutch law allowed him to use images from magazines as long as he didn't show more than 75% of the original image. I don't believe that US law has that sort of loophole, so fair use of a NYT full length photo of the President might mean you could publish the center of his eyeball, but for the whole face they could sue you.
Best advice: When in doubt, talk to a lawyer. Specifically, talk to an Intellectual Property lawyer.
I have a thick book on "How to get permission" and it includes one story that specifically mentions the Rock "n Roll Hall of Fame Building. It seems one enterprising gent took a picture of the building and used it to make postcards or some such. When the Hall tried to stop him, a court ruled that the building was in the public and he took the picture from the street, not from the property, and that made it all right and he apparently went ahead and used it without further ruling not to do so.
People just need to learn what fair use actually means. For example, if I were to take a copywrite photo of say an octopus, put it through a digital filter to make it blue, and then draw a top hat and monocle on him...its falls under fair use. But if I were to paint count chocula sucking the blood from captain crunch AND sell that painting, that is copywrite infringement and I would probably lose in court if the company wanted to challenge it.
As I've said in other threads, I am a law student studying for the bar, so I know what I'm talking about. There are no clear definitions of fair use and is judged on a case by case basis. If somebody wants to sue me for my illustrations, they can try, but I doubt anyone is foolish enough for it will most certainly be thrown out of court. People can sue for ANYTHING, but frivolous cases that cant hold water are dismissed outright.