In case you hadn’t heard, the online course industry is EXPLODING, a big part in thanks to COVID and a ton more people wanting to learn (and being home to do it) online!
Wondering … How do I legally protect my online course?
If you are like most coaches and online biz owners, you don’t want to spend hours (and hours) creating an amazing online course only to have it widely shared, stolen, the brand name taken or end up in a payment dispute or even worse, a lawsuit.
There are a couple of 🗝 ways to make sure your new online course empire is protected.
#1 Online Course Terms of Purchase - This is probably the most vital (and also the easiest key!) These oh-so-important terms Include your:
✔️ Course terms and payment policy (what happens if someone buys it and
changes their mind?)
✔️ Disclaimers to protect you and your business (see “getting sued” above, no thank
✔️ Are legally binding and included at the checkout point on your website (either
right next to the button or have a box where they have to check it)
#2 Register a Trademark for Your Course Name - There are lots of benefits to registering your course name trademark but the BIG one is ownership (it’s really the ONLY way to truly own your brand). Having the registered trademark gives you the exclusive right to use (and to keep others in your industry from using it). Plus this is when (AND ONLY WHEN) you can use the ®
#3 Register the Copyright for your Course - You may know that as soon as you hit PUBLISH on an online course it’s your copyright, you own it - it’s YOUR intellectual property. But did you know that in order to really protect it from infringers there is ONE more step you MUST take? Register it! This is a protection provided by the U.S. government (and many other governments) for an ‘original’ tangible work.
Have you checked these off your course To Do list? I’m not gonna lie, I see biz owners that are selling courses without Terms of Purchase (#1 above) - meaning they are selling a product that could potentially bring in tons of money without a contract, without any protection, and without disclaimers - and it gives me a minor heart attack.
As a lawyer this always makes me super nervous ( I know I am coming from it from a different angle ‘cause I hear #allthehorrorstories) - but here is the thing - anytime money is exchanging hands, there need to be terms in place.
This is meant to protect YOU and your CASH.
Just recently I’ve seen a few very visible coaches selling programs that just linked straight to PayPal or even a paypal.me account, and I couldn’t believe it! I am always surprised when I see such successful people that haven’t yet gotten their legal stuff straight - YIKES!
So here is the thing - your customers/clients need to AGREE to your Terms of Purchase BEFORE they buy. This is why you often have to ‘check’ a box before hitting the pay button or you see this line on the sales page “By clicking purchase, you agree to our Terms.”
There is a reason for this! Terms outline your policies on refunds, what’s included in the program/product, how to solve disputes, etc.
If someone signs-up for your online course and then 24 hours later wants a refund, you would likely go point to your Terms and your refund policy. At which point they would have an argument to say: well I didn’t agree to those before paying, if I had known there was a no refund policy I wouldn’t have signed up. Unfortunately for you, they would have a leg to stand on and it would be tough for you to fight it. Sale gone.
Bottom line: put your Terms of Purchase on your sales page by the pay button or on your checkout page.
Do you have your course terms all set and in the right place? If not, now is the time! Get yours HERE.
Sarah Kornblet Waldbuesser, Esq.
Attorney for Coaches & Online Business Owners
After several years at a law firm and a few career jumps, she ended up falling in love with online business and loves helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams in a smart and protected way. She is also an adventurer, traveler, and food and wine lover. When not at her computer, she loves hanging with her family, having wine with friends, flying around the globe and connecting with other online business owners.