If you’re an online course creator, you’ve probably poured your heart and soul (not to mention countless hours) into developing your content, only to see it end up on some spammy website for sale at a fraction of the price. Welcome to the world of online course piracy.
Digital pirates are relentless in their efforts to steal your hard work and profit from it, often selling your content on spammy websites. But don’t worry! In this blog post, we’ll show you how to protect your online course by exploring how these digital pirates operate and how you can monitor the web for instances of course theft.
How Digital Pirates Get Access to Online Courses
Understanding how digital pirates are able to access your content is the first step in preventing online course piracy.
A few common methods used by digital thieves:
Online Course Bundles
This is probably the most common one I see. A Course Bundle is a promotion where sometimes up to 100 course creators submit their course as part of the promotion. Customers get the whole Bundle containing all of the courses for a small cost (usually around $100).
Online pirates purchase these bundles, gaining access to dozens of courses that they turn around and resell for profit.
Digital pirates may trick your students into revealing their login credentials or use other deceptive methods to access your course materials.
Downloading and Sharing
Pirates may sign up for your course, download your materials, and redistribute them on spammy websites. Once they’ve gotten access to your content, these pirates sometimes share courses on darknet markets or private chat groups on platforms like Telegram and Discord.
Some pirates use screen recording software to capture your video content and repackage it for illegal distribution.
How Digital Pirates Illegally Operate
Once they’ve accessed your content, these cyber pirates make money by selling your content through the following:
On their own websites
Digital pirates create spammy websites where they sell your content, often at a very discounted price.
On file-sharing platforms
Digital thieves may upload your course to file-sharing websites where others can download it for free or a small fee.
Advertising on social media and forums
Pirates often promote stolen content on social media platforms, online forums, and other online communities to attract potential buyers.
Monitoring the Web for Course Piracy
Protecting your online course starts with being proactive. By setting up monitoring tools, you can stay ahead of digital pirates and take action when you discover your course has been stolen. Here’s how:
Create a Google Alert for your course name or specific phrases from your content. Google will notify you whenever these terms appear on the web. Customize your alerts to include different variations of your course name or content to ensure comprehensive coverage.
Online Reputation Management Tools
Utilize tools like Mention or Brand24 to monitor the internet for mentions of your course or content. These tools allow you to track social media, blogs, and forums, making it easier to discover instances of course theft.
Regularly search for your course or content on Google, file-sharing websites, and online forums. Be thorough and use different keywords to identify potential instances of piracy.
Reverse Image Searches
Consider using reverse image search tools like Google Images or TinEye. These can help you find instances where your course images or logos are being used without your permission.
What to Do if Your Course Was Pirated
I have a process that has a very high success rate for my content and that of my clients, and once you set it up, can be done in less than 5 minutes.
While the process I outline below has proven to be extremely effective, it’s important to understand that results can vary. Factors such as the offender’s location and willingness to cooperate, as well as the effectiveness of the web host’s copyright policy, can influence the outcome.
Step 1: File IP Violation Notice with Google
IP stands for Intellectual Property, and when you file a notice with Google, they review it and if they find it to be in violation, they will de-index the site which means that even if the offender doesn’t take the content down (which I show you how in step 2), it will no longer show up in Google’s search results.
Google makes this process super easy by giving you a Copyright Removal Request Form to fill out. The top half of the form is pretty basic. Fill out your name, company name, email address, etc.
In the section that says “Identify and describe the copyrighted work:”, you can use the following text: My published online course, “Your Course Name” has been infringed by an unauthorized website re-selling my course content without license or permission from me. They are also using copy from my sales page.
In the section that says “Where can we see an authorized example of the work?” put the URL to your sales page. Be sure to put ONLY the URL and make sure there are no spaces after the URL or the form will give you an error.
Where it says “Location of infringing material”, put the URL to the page on the pirated website that is selling your course. Be sure to put ONLY the URL and make sure there are no spaces after the URL or the form will give you an error. You can submit this form for multiple sites at once by putting each link on its own line. No commas, no spaces after the link.
Click the checkbox next to each Sworn Statement, then add the date and type your name, confirm you’re not a robot, and submit.
Step 2: Send Takedown Notice to Website
Email the website in question (you can also create a canned template in Gmail).
My name is [Your Name] from [Business Name].
You have material created by [Business Name] for sale on your site which is being sold illegally per the DCMA (Digital Copyright Millennium Act). We demand that you remove the following pages / products from your site immediately, as they are in violation of copyright.
We have already contacted Google and requested that your site and/or this be removed due to copyright violation. We’ve also contacted your web host and your payment provider to advise them of illegal resale activity.
If our course is not removed within 5 business days, we will pursue further legal action.
Step 3 (Optional): File IP Violation Notice with Stripe
Fill out this form: https://stripe.com/files/legal/IP_Notice.pdf
Email to email@example.com.
Online course piracy is a significant issue that can impact your revenue and reputation. By understanding how digital pirates operate, actively monitoring the web for instances of theft, and creating a system for having the violating content removed, you can protect your online course and keep your hard-earned profits where they belong.
If your content continues to be pirated despite your efforts, you might want to consider seeking advice from a legal professional specialized in intellectual property rights.
Want to keep a copy of this process handy in the unfortunate event digital pirates try to profit off your course? Download our SOP which tells you exactly what to do when you find out your course has been stolen.