3 Steps to Protect Your Work from Online Course Piracy

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! 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.

We also provide a FREE guide to download to help you protect your content from online course piracy, so be sure to grab that at the end.

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 a large group of course creators offer their course (at no charge) to be included bundle. Customers purchase 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.

Gross, right?

Social Engineering

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.

This is common with low-priced courses but can also be an issue with higher price courses that offer refunds. They’ll download the materials, then ask for a refund, which is one reason I don’t recommend offering refunds on digital products.

Screen Recording

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. These sites often have mass amounts of content for super cheap prices. If you ever find yourself on a site where it looks like it’s too good to be true, it probably is, and you definitely don’t want to support these sites as a consumer either.

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. You may have seen sites like this offering movies, books, music and other creative works, and courses and digital downloads are no exception.

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. IP theft is a big industry and some of these online course pirates operate like a sophisticated business and spend money to market their business just like you might. The bigger the company behind the business, the more money they’re willing to spend to attract business.

Monitoring the Web for Online 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:

Google Alerts

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.

Manual Searches

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 online course 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 Content was Pirated

I have a process that has a very high success rate for my own content and that of my clients, and once you set it up, it 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” containing [#] modules and [#] lessons has been infringed by an unauthorized website that is re-selling my course content without license or permission from me. They are also using copy from my own sales page which I also did not give permission to use. This is online course piracy and it’s illegal.

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

Find website contact information: scroll to the bottom of the offending site and look in the footer for a contact email. If you don’t see one, look for their terms of use / privacy policy. They should have information about how to contact them there.

Email the website in question (you can also create a canned template in Gmail).

Hello,

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.

VIOLATION:
– Page:
– Product:

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.

Signoff,
Name

Step 3 (Optional): File IP Violation Notice with Stripe 

Fill out this form: https://stripe.com/files/legal/IP_Notice.pdf  

Email to ip-notice@stripe.com. 

Conclusion + Free Online Course Piracy Protection Guide

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 you become a victim of online course piracy? Download our FREE guide below which tells you exactly what to do when you find out your course has been stolen.

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