Shop Legal Templates

Legally Protect Your Online Course: 10 Key Concepts to Include in Your Online Course Terms and Conditions

Jun 06, 2023
words terms and conditions on chalkboard

Legally Protect Your Online Course: 10 Key Concepts to Include in Your Online Course Terms and Conditions 

You’ve been drafting your online course and are getting ready to put it out into the world, or maybe you’ve already launched your course and are getting some traction in the marketplace. Have you taken the important step of adopting terms and conditions for your online course? As an online course creator, it's crucial to not only provide valuable content to your customers but also to protect your interests as a course creator and a business. Every course should have terms and conditions of use that each customer must accept before enrolling in the course. These terms and conditions let your customers know the rules that apply when accessing your course content, and provide you, as the course creator, with important legal safeguards if issues come up with improper use of your course materials. Here are 10 important concepts that should be incorporated into the terms and conditions for your digital course. 

  1. Intellectual Property

Intellectual property provisions safeguard your work from unauthorized use and preserve its value. You created your online course and you own the intellectual property associated with it, most importantly your copyright. You’ll want your terms and conditions to identify your ownership and protect these rights. In your terms and conditions, clearly state that all course materials and the components of the course are protected by copyright laws. Your terms should also contain provisions protecting your trademarks, making it clear that you own them and they may not be used without your express permission. 

  1. License to Use

In addition to protecting your intellectual property, you’ll want to let your users know exactly how they can and can’t use the content in your online course. Your customers will need a limited license to access and use the course content. By including a license clause in your terms and conditions, you provide users with the necessary permissions to benefit from your course, but prevent them from utilizing your content in a manner that could harm your business. This license should ensure that users understand they do not have ownership rights or the right to modify, sell, or distribute the course materials to anyone else. You’ll also want to reserve the right to revoke the license in case your customer breaches your terms and conditions. Clearly delineating the scope of the license protects your content from misuse and manages expectations with your customers.

  1. Confidentiality and User Accounts

Confidentiality issues arise in a few ways in your online course. You’ll want to be clear that your course content itself is confidential and proprietary information of the Company. This provides additional protection for your content. Course participants may also be posting content in the course, and your terms should make it clear that you cannot control how that information may be shared and that customers should be mindful of this when posting content. Users should also agree to maintain the confidentiality of information shared by other users of the course, agreeing not to share information outside of the course platform and to be respectful of information shared by others. Additionally, your customers should be reminded to maintain the confidentiality of their account credentials and inform them that they are liable for any activities that occur if they improperly share credentials. Creating requirements for registration is also critical to smooth operation of your course. Your terms and conditions should require users to provide accurate and current information during registration, allowing you to communicate with your customers effectively. Addressing confidentiality issues adds a layer of security and accountability to your course.

  1. Payments, Refunds and Cancellations

To manage expectations and avoid potential disputes, identify your policies regarding payments, refunds and cancellations. Will you offer payment plans or subscriptions? What is your refund policy?  Are all sales final or do customers have a short window to ask for a refund? Do your customers need to demonstrate they tried the course out before asking for a refund? What will happen if a customer cancels after the refund period? By describing your policies around payments, refunds and cancellations your customers will know before purchasing your course what your policies are and can decide if they want to invest in your course. Customers should also understand that if they receive a refund, you are revoking their license and they may no longer use the course materials. These provisions can protect you against improper chargebacks, reduce refund requests and minimize potential conflicts with your customers.

  1. Disclaimers

There are a few types of disclaimers you’ll want in your terms and conditions. As an online course creator, it's important to manage user expectations regarding the course content. You’ll want to be sure your customers understand your course is educational in nature and isn’t providing professional advice or creating a professional relationship. And while you strive to deliver high-quality content, it's essential to disclaim any express or implied warranties regarding the accuracy, completeness, or suitability of your course for any particular circumstance. Disclaimers help set realistic expectations with your students and help minimize potential liability for the course creator arising from user dissatisfaction or misunderstandings.

  1. Limitation of Liability

To further protect your interests, your course terms should include a limitation of liability clause. Specify that you will not be liable for any damages arising from the use or inability to use the course, and that your maximum liability is limited. This provision sets reasonable boundaries on your liability and can potentially reduce financial risks associated with unforeseen circumstances or user claims.

  1. Course Access

Your course terms should make it clear that you expect certain behavior inside of your course, and that if customers violate community standards it may become necessary to terminate or suspend a user's access to your course. To address such scenarios, clearly state in your terms and conditions that you reserve the right to terminate or suspend user access for violations of the terms and conditions, misconduct, or any other reasons deemed necessary by you as the course creator. This provision protects your ability to maintain a safe and supportive learning environment for all of your students. 

  1. Privacy and Data Collection

Privacy and the protection of personal information are important topics to cover in your course terms and conditions. In addition to covering this topic in your website privacy policy, you should include information about your customer’s privacy in your course terms and conditions. In your terms and conditions, provide a clear explanation of how user data will be collected, stored, and used and let your customers know that third parties, such as payment processors, may also have access to their personal information. Although your website privacy policy will cover these topics in much more depth, by including them in your course terms and conditions you are able to build trust with your customers by stating your commitment to protecting their privacy. 

  1. Indemnification

To help protect yourself from potential legal claims, include an indemnification clause in your terms and conditions. An indemnification clause would require your customers to indemnify and hold you harmless from any claims, damages, or losses arising out of their use of the course or violation of the terms and conditions. This provision helps shift responsibility and potential liability back to the user, reducing your risk if there is a legal dispute and claims are made against you.

  1. Disputes

Your terms and conditions should contain information about how disputes are handled. Will your customers be able to file a lawsuit in court, or are they required to use alternative dispute resolution, such as binding arbitration? You’ll want to state where claims can be filed, and what law will govern resolution of those claims. These provisions help to ensure consistency and predictability in the resolution of disputes that can’t be handled informally between the course creator and the customer.

Summing up Legal Protection for Your Online Course

In the excitement of putting your course out into the world, don’t forget to take the necessary steps to legally protect your online course. Including the ten topics discussed above in your online course terms and conditions will help you protect your business interests, manage expectations with your customers, ensure your course operates as smoothly as possibly and minimize the potential for disputes and legal claims by your customers. Your course terms and conditions should be presented to your students before they make their purchase. This way, they have the opportunity to know the terms of the course before they make the purchase and can make an informed decision about their purchase. If you present your course terms after the purchase it’s likely they will not be enforceable. 

A customizable template for online course terms is available in The Step Up Your Legal™ Template Shop. Always remember if you need legal advice you should consult with an attorney who can review your specific circumstances.