By Vasco Cavalheiro

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So, are you a course creator wondering how to secure your online courses from theft?

Online theft and piracy is a harsh reality that every course creator must confront, whether they like it or not.

I’m a course creator myself, so I understand how much work goes into creating an online course.

To have someone else reaping the benefits of your labor as a result of piracy can be overwhelming and frustrating, to say the least.

I’ve seen it happen several times, and it’s never a good feeling. Aside from the sense of injustice, it can have a negative impact on your business’s efforts.

So I’m not going to sit here and pretend this isn’t a big deal. The truth is, it is.

Which is why, in this article, I’ll share my thoughts on securing your online course and piracy in general, as well as what you can do to mitigate the problem.

So you want to make sure you read all the way through.

Let’s dive in!

Can You Completely Secure Your Online Courses?

Let’s face it, you can’t stop piracy altogether. There’s no one way to do it perfectly. At least not yet.

The moment you upload your content to the internet, it becomes at risk of being stolen.

Your content can get pirated no matter what you do.

I’m sure you are aware that it’s trivial to download content from all the major streaming providers, including Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon Prime. 

And these are global companies that invest millions in security every year. But it doesn’t matter. Online piracy is largely an unsolved problem, still today.

It’s exactly the same problem as with DVDs: if you can watch it, you can copy it and there is no way to prevent it.

In many cases, it’s as simple as copy-paste, screen recording, or downloading a PDF.

It might be a little bit trickier, like installing a Chrome extension or similar. But anyone can do it, no special skills are needed.

According to a report from DataProt, annual revenue losses from digital piracy around the globe are between $40 billion and $97.1 billion in the movie industry. In fact, 126.7 billion views worth of TV episodes produced in the US are pirated every year.

Even big enterprises like Hollywood are not exempted from this reality, sadly so.

Here are some common examples of online course theft cases:

  • Sharing of Passwords: An individual can sign up for a paid course and share their password with friends, thereby converting a group of potential customers into freeloaders and stealing money from the rightful owners. This is common practice even in the most well-known streaming services.
  • Screen Capturing: Malicious users can pirate any content by simply recording and streaming the online course content (or any type of video) displayed on their computer screens.
  • Content Downloading. With so many videos and audio downloading tools and software available, anyone can easily download your video. All that is required is access to it. They can even upload them to video hosting services such as YouTube and Vimeo, making money off it.
  • Copyright Infringement: This implies the use or production of copyright-protected materials without the permission of the copyright holder.

Back in 2015, it was revealed that several courses on Udemy were published by copyright violators who simply downloaded the real courses, renamed or slightly edited them, and uploaded them as their own products, infringing the copyright and income of legitimate owners.

These are serious issues bringing the online course industry to its knees.

There is no real way to protect a video online, the same way you can’t protect an image. 

If you can see it, you can download it. The same goes for DVDs, if you can play them, you can copy them. It’s an unsolved situation.

Online course platforms can only really protect access to the page where the video is by requiring prior payment; but once the user can watch the video, there is in practice, and until today, no way to further protect the content.

Even though piracy is a problem that’s crippling several industries, that doesn’t have to be the case for your business.

There are still certain ways to legally protect your courses and more importantly, your business.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Course Business

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Register Your Copyright: To begin, ensure that you have registered your copyright, which is the legal right that course creators have over their creative work and allows them to monetize it. If someone notices that you have placed a copyright on your content, they may be less likely to steal it because they are afraid of breaking the law.
  • Branding: You can never go wrong with this when it comes to protecting your content. You can add your name, logo, or website URL as a watermark. This is a simple way to prove that the content is yours.


As you can see, piracy is a global problem that is not going away anytime soon.

But if there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that while you may not be able to completely eliminate piracy, you can certainly mitigate it and protect your online course business in an effective way.

If you are an online course creator, or thinking about creating an online course sometime soon, check out this in-depth guide that I wrote detailing all the steps involved: How To Create an Online Course.

And if you are looking for a platform to host your courses, choose one from this list I compiled where I talk about the best online course platforms currently available.

I hope you found this post useful and will put these suggestions to use.

I want to thank Chinyelu Karibi-Whyte for the opportunity to share this here in her blog. 

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. 

How can I help?

Vasco Cavalheiro

OnlineCourseHost.com Founder & Online Course Creator

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