Guide to Using Hekman Library Online   |   Library Operational Plans

Fair Use Principles (Brevity, Spontaneity, and Cumulative Effect)

Fair Use for copyright purposes can often be guided by the principles of brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect. The following can help guide you in cases where copying of the content would be allowed:


  1. Poetry
    1. A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages or, 
    2. From a longer poem, an excerpt of not more than 250 words
  2. Prose
    1. Either a complete article, story, or essay of less than 2,500 words, or
    2. An excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words.

(Each of the numerical limits stated in ''a'' and ''b'' above may be expanded to permit the completion of an unfinished line of a poem or of an unfinished prose paragraph.)

  1. Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or per periodical issue.
  2. "Special" works: Certain works in poetry, prose or in ''poetic prose'' which often combine language with illustrations and which are intended sometimes for children and at other times for a more general audience fall short of 2,500 words in their entirety. Paragraph ''b'' above notwithstanding, such special works may not be reproduced in their entirety; however, an excerpt comprising not more than two of the published pages of the work and containing not more than 10% of the words in the text, may be reproduced.


  1. The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, and
  2. The inspiration and decision to use the work and the moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission.

Cumulative Effect

  1. The copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.
  2. Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay or two excerpts may be copied from the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term.
  3. There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term.

(The limitations stated in 2 and 3 above shall not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of other periodicals.)