What Do I Need to Know Before I Sell My Online Course?

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Do you have an online course? Or do you have one brewing in that beautiful brain of yours? As online course creation has become more popular over the years, I’ve been getting more and more questions from clients about what they need to be doing to protect their course content and your business. (Yup – even having an online course has legal implications.)  In this Legal quickie episode, I’m breaking down some of the  legal stuff you ought to be thinking about before you hit “publish”on your online course.

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HERE’S THE TRANSCRIPT OF THIS EPISODE

[Intro Music] This is Office talk with Annette Stepanian.

Annette

Hey there! Thank you for joining me for another legal quickie episode where I answer questions about law and business under 10 minutes or less. I want to know, do you have an online course? Or are you considering starting one? Well, it’s something that has been coming up a lot with my clients, I’ve been getting more and more requests about, “Hey, Annette, I have this online course idea I want to do, what do I need to do to protect myself legally, or I have this online course and I’m running into problems with my students and whatnot.” And so it’s become an area that I’m getting a lot of questions about. So I wanted to address some of the general topics that you need to be thinking about, as you are creating and launching your online course. 

The first one is your content. You are building an asset, when you are creating content for your course. articularly, the more profitable it is, the more you want to protect it true story, I had a client email me, and she has a very popular online course, that has made her tons of money. So she had found out through a customer of hers that her course had been copied and was being sold on a website for a fraction of the cost. You could imagine the horror when you find that out. And it’s really unfortunate, because here is something that you have not only put a lot of time and effort into, but now you have this person who’s stolen your content, and is profiting from it, and is also proving to be a competitor of yours. So we took some certain actions, we were able to get that removed. However, you could find yourself in that situation, I hope you never do. But what are those things that you’re going to be doing to protect your content. 

And this really comes down to understanding copyrights. There are certain affirmative things that you could do to give yourself some added protection and insurance to protect your content under copyright law. And then there are some practical things that you can do, such as utilizing certain technology to limit the distribution of your content to unauthorized users. So it’s this balancing, right? YYou have the law, the law can only do so much, they can only regulate so much. But it’s good to have that in your back pocket, should you ever need to fall upon that. And then there are some practical things that you could do to prevent that. 

However, having said that, as you probably will know, you cannot control everything, and you can’t control other people’s actions. So if you’ve ever find yourself in a situation where somebody has stolen your content, or you believe they stolen your content, then you need to at that time determine what is the cost benefit of you taking extra steps to protect that content. 

If you’re currently finding yourself in a situation where somebody has stolen your content, and you don’t know what to do have a listen to episode number 11, which talks about if somebody has copied your content, what do I do next? 

The next thing I want you to think about are all of the issues that come with the quote unquote, like the delivery of the product. So obviously, you’re not physically delivering this product, it is all done online. However, things like accessibility, things like refunds, things that come up, as the course is going to be communicated and delivered to your consumer. 

So what is your refund policy? Are you going to give refunds? Or are you not going to give refunds. And think about this in terms of if the shoe was on the other foot? If you were a consumer of a product, what are those things that you would want to know before you purchased a product. Address those in your terms of service. Now I am talking about Terms of Service or terms and conditions. And I don’t want you to get them confused with the terms and conditions or Terms of Use that are on the bottom footer of your website that usually go along with your privacy policy. 

What I like to do and what I usually recommend for my clients is to have a separate terms and conditions or Terms of Service for your online course. Now, why do I recommend this because there are going to be certain policies that are very unique and specific to this product versus your general website. 

The next thing that you want to think about are disclaimers. I know I get questions like this all the time. What do I need to include on my website in order to protect myself to disclaim myself from any liability? Well, the answer is going to depend a lot on what kind of information you’re dispensing and what kind of things you’re teaching. However, I’m assuming most of us are giving some sort of advice that if you take XYZ action, you’re going to get such and such a result. So you do want to be careful about the type of information that you dispense and more particularly the type of claims you’re making. So the Federal Trade Commission, if you’re not familiar with what that is, it is a federal agency that is really charged with protecting consumers. And they do this through a variety of different ways. But one of the things that they regulate are the claims that advertisers make in connection with certain products. 

So if you are going to make a certain claim, such that take my course and you’ll lose 30 pounds, you’ve got to be able to substantiate that you have to be able to prove that. I know when we put our marketing hat on, we want to make these claims, we want to grab people’s attention, we want to be able to convince them to purchase something, you have to be careful, you have to do a gut check. If you can’t prove and you can’t really promise that somebody can achieve those results that you’re claiming they can, that I need you to scale it back a bit.  I need you to really rethink about what it is that you are communicating that you can offer them. 

So these are just some of the things that you need to be thinking about. They’re kind of the bigger buckets of issues that come up when I work with clients. So if you want to take this a little further, you want to understand the nuances. I’d encourage you to check out my workshop on demand called Launching Legally –  What Every Online Course Creator Needs to Knnow. And think of these workshops as extended legal quickies. So in about 45 minutes to an hour I dive into a very specific topic. Whether it’s an industry topic or just a specific area of the law, and really get into the nuts and bolts for you. If you’re looking for a contract template for your terms of service for an online course, I have that over in the shop as well and I’ll link up to both of those resources in the show notes which can be found at annettestepanian.com/podcast/24. 

So with that said, my friend I am going to skedaddle here. I hope you have a fantastic day and I can’t wait to talk to you later.

[Outro Music]