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Course piracy: preventing course content theft within e-learning

The question of how you can protect your content from theft is not an old one. It goes back to 2015 when video content maker Troy Hunt accused the paid learning platform ‘Udemy’ of stealing video content he had created and uploaded for tech company PluralSight. Even more recently in 2018 Udemy, once again, found itself in hot waters after YouTuber Chris Hawkes accused the online platform of pilfering his content for its site.

What this reflects is that the majority of us are concerned with content protection. Content theft is an ongoing headache that most people are concerned with. So what measures can you put in place to ensure your content is protected?

Anti-piracy using technology and security (and why it doesn’t always work)

IP blocking and strong password enforcement

One of the first steps to take in preventing data theft is to incorporate IP blockers. IP blockers prevent hostile or unwanted IP addresses from accessing your data. In addition advanced password authentication prevents hackers or other hostile sites from gaining access to your site. The problem with this kind of approach mostly makes sense in corporate environments, such as in employee training, where you can easily restrict access from outsiders. If you sell courses as a commercial trainer, this approach is often impossible, especially if you’re hosting your own content on a third-party course platform.

Domain whitelisting

Another way to discourage content theft is to feature domain based registrations, allowing you to register learners through domains specified by you. For example, you can whitelist access for users with email addresses from a specific business, great for commercial training.

Anti-virus and data encryption

Viruses are another threat to consider as they have the potential to corrupt data and steal sensitive information. Equipping your LMS with anti virus software minimises the threat of this happening.

Data encryption is another security feature to consider. This ensures that your data stays safe when it is transmitted over the internet between your system and the user. Through using SSL security on your domain, you’re able to transmit data from your LMS to your users or other platforms without prying eyes.

Why these technological approaches may not work

Online learning or corporate training process requires some degree of honesty. These kinds of approaches can’t stop someone who has legitimate access to your content from copying it, particularly as 70% of internet users believe content piracy is perfectly normal. That mindset means that $50 billion of potential income is lost annually due to copyright infringement worldwide.

This leaves  learning content vulnerable even with the above steps implemented.

The blatantly causal attitude of most internet users when it comes  down to their content sharing and the translation of this in real monetary loses creates quite a big headache for those selling e-content and e-learning systems.

The question now is what can be done to fight this very real threat of online pilfering?

Fight piracy using impossible-to-copy content

Watermarking and DRM

Firstly the act of watermarking your videos is a great deterrent, as is restricting the video playback to licensed video players using DRM – the same type of technology that stops users ripping music from Spotify, or movies from Netflix.

Copyright infringement can be fought by browsing the web in search for your online course materials. ContentRaven is an example of a specialised tool which can help you do this and if material is found to be infringing copyright they can be removed. This was just the case with the online course provider Udemy. The scandal that resulted from the fact that the provider was using pirated content meant that once that content’s authorship was proven the material was removed.

Unfortunately the simple screen capture method is still able to get past even the most sophisticated security blocks.One way to try and deter people from screen capturing is to embed the learners personal details in such a way as that any attempt to blur them out would effectively render the material useless.

This can be done through strategic positioning of the learners data so that if a learner does attempt to screen capture they will in fact be running the risk of exposing their own private data.This might seem a tad extreme yet it can be effective as most pirates strive to preserve their anonymity and exposing their details is the last thing they want.

Anti-piracy through impossible-to-copy content and approaches to learning

Making life difficult for pirates

Text, images and video are easy to copy, and anyone with a basic command of computer literacy can easily issue the ‘ctrl’ ‘control’ and ‘copy’ ‘paste’ commands. This makes copying content such as text, images and video easy to copy. Fighting piracy means reverting to content that pirates will ultimately find too difficult to pilfer. One way to do this is to incorporate VR and AR content.

The benefits of VR, AR and interactive content

VR and AR is a trickier avenue for pirates to pilfer, simply because they can’t be ripped like a video or song due to its interactivity.

Quizzes and assessments are also easy to pilfer and copy, with the simple use of copy and paste commands. Incorporating more interactive and complicated quizzes can be an effective way to deter would be content thieves.

Adding value outside of a traditional course that cannot be pirated

If part of your value is 1 on 1 coaching, or tutor feedback, that can’t be pirated. Value builds a loyal and satisfied customer base which ultimately leads to long lasting customer relationships that no pirate can ever duplicate. There are simple ways to do this.

Additionally, the incorporation of feedback can both encourage and motivate learners to continue their learning progress. Feedback also creates incentives for achievement as your learners feel their progress is being monitored as well as recognised. Certificates, as well as written feedback, are both simple ways to do this. Another way to build trust and offer value is to offer discounts to loyal customers. Cross-promotion is another option where learners are given options in purchasing extra material and info from others whose help could prove beneficial at a discounted cost.

Adding value through innovation

Encourage people to find more innovative ways of educating users in ways that can’t be copied and pasted. Conducting webinars, Q&A sessions and even weekly or monthly meet ups are all innovative ways of providing value. They also are instrumental in creating a sense of community which encourages learners to share their insights and knowledge and can be instrumental in building a treasury if information for both your company as well as your learners. The use of Slack and Facebook groups can also help provide opportunities of a communal atmosphere

The importance of support

Offering support is also of vital importance in creating and maintaining value. Users need to know that they have an avenue of contact if something goes wrong. This helps eliminate any fears or reservations users may have regarding the receipt of guidance and support.

Making value the backbone of your service

Ultimately even the best security measures aren’t fool proof, after all, this is the internet and once online ,content is always at risk of being copied. It’s important to remember that whilst content can be copied, value on the other hand, cannot. Therefore it’s important to develop your brand and name in order to add value to whatever you do. That way clients know that they aren’t just signing up for an e learning program but most importantly for the additional value of your service.

Not sure where to start with your own learning management system? See how we can help with Learning Management System development.

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