If you’re reading this, it’s too late. I’m already gone...just kidding!! If you’re reading this, you’re probably itching to get your own snazzy business course off the ground. And that is super awesome! For a solid run down of the steps you need to take, mosey on over to our The Benefits and Challenges of Creating an Online Course blog.
If you’re ready to get down with hugely important insight into how to protect your Intellectual Property, then you’re in the right place;) Outside of payment and having the appropriate disclaimers stating that you can’t guarantee results of the course you offer, protecting your IP is the highest risk that you need to cover as a course creator. So let’s talk about copyright in your content, how to protect it, terms and conditions, trademarks and the other goodies you need to be aware of to cover your brilliant course creator arse.
All About Copyright
As the owner of a business and now the creator of a course, your intellectual property is one of the most important assets that you have. Your IP can come in the form of guides, checklists, templates, workbooks...anything that you’ve created with the intention to make your course run smoothly and effectively.
Copyright is “a form of protection afforded by Australian law allowing certain rights over work whether published or unpublished.” It recognises the skill and effort of the author to create the works and is protection over original, creative works. Copyright in Australia is protected by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).
Copyright can protect:
Dramatic works: scripts for plays or films, dances, or pretty much any work intended to be performed.
Literary works: stories, letters, articles, policies, reports, emails, song lyrics, and written presentations
Musical works: scores, songs, and more often than not any musical arrangements of sounds.
Artistic works: paintings, sculptures, drawings, patterns, diagrams, photographs and buildings.
As soon as you get that content out into the world, it automatically becomes yours, awesome content that you can do with what you’d like. Let’s take, for example, the lessons that you lay out for your course - this content is valueable, friend! Talk about a killer side hustle!
You can create workbooks, checklists, freebies for lead magnets, mini courses from larger courses, podcast content...the list goes on. But once you put that first creative drop of knowledge out into the world, others will see how awesome it is. You can also sell images to other businesses as ‘stock’ for them while still holding the rights yourself! Which is great, buuuut can leave you vulnerable if you don’t protect it!! All of it.
Ways to stay protected...
- Back up all work...you should be doing this anyway!
- Keeping drafts and previous versions of the work
- Put an ‘all rights reserved’ footer at the bottom of any content you create, or on your website, to make it super clear that what any reader or viewer is looking at belongs to you and only you.
- Embed information like your name/company name and date the work was created in the metadata of any digital image/file.
- Using that lovely little © on any of your content
- Apply a watermark to your images
- Be you and allow yourself that obvious ‘you’ style!
- Have contracts in place the spell out what you are assigning/licencing
Speaking of licensing...when you’re creating an agreement for a customer to use your content for any reason, be clear and precise with exactly what you want to offer them in terms of permissions and usage rights. Get it ALL down on paper. Don’t get caught and lose your goods because you missed an important point like usage for 1 month (and not forever!), etc. Got it? Good. If you need an extra hand and are in the market for a legally legit licence agreement, you can find our fancy little Copyright Licence Agreement Template here.
On the good ol’ web...
Get your terms and conditions in order! These bad boys protect your intellectual property by making it clear you hold the copyright to the content on your website, which will prevent people from using your work and content without your permission. Legal ramifications work wonders!
By placing your terms and conditions on your website, you’re ensuring your intellectual property is legally protected and the terms are being fully enforced. This is just another way of getting your copyright ‘down on paper’ so it’s very clear that the work is yours. And no one else can steal it from you without consequences.
Where copyright protects the content you create from the ideas (or the expression of the ideas), the trademarks may be able to protect the ideas themselves by enabling you to invest your time and money in the names, logos...and...and...take a look.
A trademark is a legal way of owning and distinguishing the name, goods, and services your business advertises and provides. You can trademark phrases, worlds, sounds, movements, images and smells. Yup. Smells. Perfumes, even scents in particular stores that they want to be known for and recognised by. But I digress...why is a trademark important for you if you want to create your own course?
Well, a trademark offers your brand exclusivity and is the only way to guarantee those exclusive rights to the super awesome name you’ve given your course, the workbooks you’ve designed, the dance you created to help your students remember a particularly tough term...you name it!
There are two types of trademarks:
- Registered trademarks approved by IP Australia, and are distinguished with the use of the ® symbol.
- Enable you to take immediate action against another business infringing on your rights.
- Protected by common law, and feature the ™ symbol.
- More difficult to defend as yours.
If you can afford the investment, register it, baby! Just do your homework to make sure the money you’re spending isn’t going to waste!
When you’re ready to make your brilliant course a reality, jump on top of your legals, get those T&Cs in order, and protect that IP! When your course goes gangbusters, you’ll be glad you did.
Riz McDonald is an e-commerce business owner, business coach, podcaster and a lawyer of over 16 years. She’s also a mum, a wife, and a lover of good wine...she only ever drinks the cheap stuff when she’s stoney broke.
***Disclaimer. Please read!!***
This article is for general information purposes only and should be used solely as general guidance. It does not and is not intended to represent legal advice or other professional advice.
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