Content is the foundation for all online courses. As an education institution, you have invested time, money and other valuable resources to create content to meet studentsneeds. You would naturally want to protect the intellectual property (IP) of your content. But how to ensure IP protection for your online courses? While the Internet has unleashed a sea of information, it has also given rise to piracy complete with illegal downloads, file sharing, and plagiarism. 

So, once your course content goes online, there is a risk that it could get stolen, illegally downloaded, or accessed by people who are not authorized. The fact is, if people want to get their hands on your course content or plagiarize it, they can do it easily if you dont have the appropriate safeguards in place.

Related Read: 7 Effective Ways to Combat eBook Piracy in Publishing

In case, you find that someone has illegally used or plagiarized your content, you should immediately seek legal advice. However, to avoid this situation, you must take measures to ensure the IP protection of your online courses.

But let us first understand what is intellectual property (IP).

Intellectual property is a means to ensure that you retain ownership of your knowledge, innovation and creativity. IP seeks to protect all intangible property. In the eLearning context, apart from your online course content, it can also include design, artwork and inventions. IP covers all creative work that otherwise may not be covered under standard patent protection.Here are some ways to ensure Intellectual Property protection for your online courses.

Register Your Copyright

A copyright is a legal right that gives you complete control over your creative work so that you alone can monetize or use it any way you wish. Once you have the copyright in place for your online courses, people will be less inclined to steal the material for fear of breaking the law. For online courses, your copyright would include PDFs, graphics, images, videos and any other type of files. Registering a copyright is easy and straightforward and will help you pursue legal action in case of any illegal use while also adding an extra layer to your intellectual property (IP) protection.

Email Your Content to Yourself

Once you have developed your online courses, take a complete printout including the curriculum plan, lesson plans and content, and also email them to yourself.  This will be of great use to you in case anyone reproduces your courses without your consent. You can take legal recourse and the dated evidence will hold you in good stead.

Time Stamp Your Course Content

Timestamping is a great way to ensure the IP protection of your online courses. Before sharing your course content online, be sure to time-stamp it. As with the case of printouts and emails, this will hold as proof that you published it first. Your online course content can also include YouTube videos, social media updates and live-stream videos. If there is a replica of your courses sometime down the line, with a timestamp, it will become clear who published it first.

Plan How You Will Distribute Your Online Courses

How you distribute your online courses will have a direct impact on how easy or difficult it is for people to unethically use your material. You may wish to share from your own website, share videos on YouTube or use online course-specific platforms like Udemy or Domestika. These platforms have safety mechanisms in place such as software to track anti-piracy activity for IP protection. This extra layer of security will prevent unauthorized access to your courses.

Watermark Your Content

Make sure to add a watermark to your course content including videos and documents. While this is a great way to claim your content it also indicates some level of possession implying people would need your permission to use or share it. On the positive side, in case someone shares your content illegally, if it has your logo or website link, you will get visibility and credit from anyone using your content.

Keep Track of Your Online Course Content

With the Internet evolving so rapidly it is impossible to manually keep track of your online course content. One way to ensure IP protection of your courses is to use anti-piracy software. This will increase the lifetime of your course content and also keep track of any unauthorized use on social media, websites etc. The other option is to use plagiarism checkers such as Copyscape where you can enter the URL to your course content and the checker will scan the web to find matching content. You can also set up Google Alerts, a free Google tool, with the name of your institution, or keywords used to search for your course material. Once you set these up, Google will alert you by mail when those words are published online, allowing you to check if your courses have been plagiarized.

Use Digital Rights Management Tools

The DRM  software establishes, defines, and identifies rights holders and also tracks the usage of online content. Basically, the tool will help you control the visibility of your content and trace who has used it and for how long. The software is of special benefit to access eLearning content that includes passwords, encryption, and firewalls to restrict its use to only authorized users.

Also Read: How to Create a DRM Protected eBook and Distribute it Securely


Content is key to almost all educational activities. It takes a lot of planning and investment to create online courses and then constantly update them with evolving knowledge and technology. Content creation is a creative process and can be seen as mental labour. Like any other innovation, you would like to protect all ownership rights on your intellectual property. While anti-piracy is evolving, it is nearly impossible to narrow it. And as the saying goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure’, so it is important to take some proactive measures to nip the problem in the bud rather than wait for it to grow to a time when you have to take the legal way out to protect your IP. As discussed in the blog, be sure to brand your online courses, use anti-piracy and DRM software to safeguard your courses and eliminate any unauthorized use.

If you wish to create and distribute your online courses securely, you might want to opt for the KITABOO platform. KITABOO is an e-publishing platform where you can create, publish and distribute interactive content in a completely secure manner with DRM protection and encryptions. 

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