Let's talk about the blood, sweat, and tears involved in developing an online course or coaching program and how to ensure that all that hard work is protected.
When packaged carefully with valuable knowledge and practical insights, an online course or coaching program can be a strategic addition to your offer suite and game-changing move for your life and business.
If you developed or are developing an online course or program, you've invested a significant chunk of your time and resources (e.g., expertise, research, content creation, tech, and marketing). You've also undoubtedly sacrificed other minor details of life like sleep, grocery shopping, new Netflix shows (thanks for the spoilers, Facebook memes), and along the way, perhaps some slivers of sanity, too.
As someone who has launched my own programs, I know that the entire cycle, from conceptualization to delivery, can feel considerably akin to growing and nurturing a tiny new human, or in my case, as a mother of two already, having a third and very needy newborn.
Like you, I spent countless hours nailing down every aspect of my program, from forming the initial concept to cultivating a solid outline, defining the format, creating materials, and tending to each action and effort. I relied on countless pours of coffee (a big shout-out to my local Starbucks family) and late nights inspecting and pruning each framework component. But all that hard work paid off when my program finally came to fruition and was ready to launch. I was excited to help my participants reach their own personal finish lines, achieve their goals, and celebrate.
I'm going to venture out and guess you know exactly what I am talking about; you've felt it, lived it, and been wrapped up in it-- persisting past all the twists, turns, and occasional one-legged crane and crow poses it takes to get such a massive project to completion.
So, finally, your course or program is out in the world (or it’s about to be)...but, wait! Have you taken the steps needed to protect your creation?
Content and Framework Thieves
[Cue the suspenseful and menacing music] As you prepare to launch a polished and ready-to-roll-out coaching program, a sense of unease starts to creep in. You can't help but wonder: what if someone steals your content or framework and tries to pass it off as their own? It's a scary thought, but it cannot go ignored.
Yes, it’s a nightmare scenario that no online coach or educator wants to face - learning your program framework has been stolen, copied, or reproduced by someone else. Unfortunately, it's a genuine risk in today's digital age, where information is readily available at the click of a button.
While helping countless online entrepreneurs in my law firm over the years, I’ve found that, most of the time, framework and content thieves tend to be my client’s students/clients. Yikes. That hurts. So, what’s a course creator to do?
Options for Protecting Your Course or Coaching Program
If you have an online course that does not involve a live coaching element, you might consider check-the-box terms and conditions. This is a contract between you and the individual who is purchasing your course. They will have to agree to your terms and conditions in order to purchase the course.
Your terms and conditions should address copyright ownership and provide details about the type of copyright license you are extending to the individuals who purchase your course. For example, maybe they can share some of your information to implement in projects with their own clients or maybe they can’t! You might also choose to limit the license to only one individual or allow multiple team members within a business to use the course with the purchase of one license. Those details are up to you.
By including a clause that designates your program framework as "proprietary information" and prohibits participants or students from disclosing it to third parties, you can establish legal protection over your framework in a way that might be more flexible than copyright protection. Doing this helps to ensure that your hard work is not pocketed and profited by someone else and that you can take legal action if necessary.
If you have a live coaching component to your course or program, you might consider having each individual student or client sign a coaching contract with you, rather than just relying on terms and conditions.
At Contractista, we offer attorney-drafted, easy-to-customize Online Course Terms and Conditions, that you can simply customize with your business and course details, and then copy and paste onto your website or course platform.
If you’re looking to protect your content or framework within a live coaching program, you’ll find the same protection, as well as additional clauses that address cancellation, rescheduling, and more in our coaching contract, which is customizable for all types of private or group coaching programs.
And then, with your legal ducks in a row, it’s time to pick up that champagne glass. Cheers to your incredible program! May it be impactful to many and may you get the credit!