Not too long ago, I was a guest on a podcast, thinking “Oh no, you should really copyright your e-course.” The host was interviewing me over the phone, and mentioned the e-course he’d recently released. He was thrilled that it was making so much money.
I was excited for him too, but as someone who’s made a career out of working on intellectual property, I heard a warning bell chime. While he talked, I did a quick search for his e-course, found it immediately, and then broke the bad news.
Yep–someone had stolen his e-course, and was now selling his work at a drastically lowered price. He was shocked, and even angry, which was understandable. After all, it’s awful to find out your hard work has been stolen.
But how can you avoid it?
If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while, you’ll know what I’m going to say–register the copyright for your e-course.
How To Copyright Your E-Course
What do you have in an e-course? You generally have a mix of some or all of the following:
- Video/Audio: The instructional meat of the e-course
- Images: Charts, photographs, or illustrations used in your e-course videos, or in supplementary workbooks
- Text: The transcripts of your video or audio lessons, and text in supplementary workbooks
Here’s what that means. When you go to copyright.gov to register your copyrights, you’ll need to file a few different registrations. Group your text together and register the copyright for your text. Group your images together and register them as a separate group. And group your video together and register those as a video group.
Even though it may seem like a hassle, it only takes a few extra minutes. And the bottom line is, the more registrations you have on your e-course, the more freedom you’ll have to pursue legal action in the future.
Benefits of Copyrighting Your E-Course
But why should you copyright your e-course? Is it really worth it? The answer is yes, it’s worth it–and here’s why.
If you file your copyright registration within 90 days of your content creation, you can bring a claim to the US Federal Court, and you can also file for statutory damages.
There’s a longer blog post on statutory damages here, but the short version is that statutory damages award you thousands of dollars just for the copyright infringement. Actual damages–in other words, how much money you actually lost as a result of the infringement–are much harder to prove.
Aside from the statutory damages, you’ll also be able to recover the revenue you’re losing to your pirates.
When pirates set up websites that look legitimate, your customers can’t always tell the difference between your (expensive) sales page and the pirate’s sales page–and on their page, they can get the course for a great deal! Once you shut those down, potential customers will have to go through your store, getting you back that lost revenue.
After spending so much time, money, and energy on creating an ecourse, it can be nerve wracking to think that anyone could steal it. With your content registered, you’ll have the ability to take action above and beyond just sending a takedown notice, which will give you some serious peace of mind.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah, but nobody’s gonna steal my stuff,” let me just say this–I truly believe that I can find every single popular e-course available for free or at a huge discount. I’ve seen it happen in other industries (music, e-books), and there’s no reason why e-courses should be immune.
So e-course providers–take the extra step and register your work! You’ll be glad you did.