No matter what we do – Put up watermarks, disable video downloads, disable screen recordings/shares, our online courses are getting pirated everyday. In fact, as we are speaking,  courses are getting pirated online right now. A global pandemic can work in surprising ways. When people suddenly started to lose their jobs as organizations in every country started downsizing due to the lockdowns the realization suddenly hit everyone – “Oh my god, i need to keep myself updated or i am gonna lose my job”, or the fact that new opportunities will be created after the dust has settled has awoken the foresight abilities of humans making them flood into various online courses. 

This has come as a blessing to organizations who provide online courses, but it also has reminded them of the lingering threat of their courses being available on almost every torrent site, reseller sites and websites that hoard pirated content. The moment users search for their courses on search engines, pirate sites also come up with those searches stealing away thousands of users. Lets dive a bit deeper on the impact of the piracy of online courses.

The Rise Of Online Learning

First, let’s show you the uprising of new online learners. 

In 2020, according to classcentral.com “Coursera added the largest number of new learners, receiving 35 million enrollments between mid-March and end of July.”

In an article by cnbc.comThe growth has been pretty staggering,” says Anant Agarwal, founder and CEO of online learning platform edX. “We saw a 15-fold, not 15%, a 15-fold increase in the number of new learners registering on edX during the month of April 2020. And in fact, for the year through November 2020, compared to the year through November 2019, the number of new registrations on edX went up by 161%.” Agarwal credits the increase not only to the number of workers who became unemployed during the pandemic and began taking online classes during their job search but also to the many workers who became increasingly concerned about up-skilling.

Are We Only Losing Revenue Or More?

Let’s become more practical, We did a quick calculation with the help of vdocipher.com on how much revenue one could lose through courses being pirated online. The variables were – 

  • 10,000 estimated viewers in next 6 months
  • 50 estimated videos in the course of 6 months
  • An average of $50 per course
  • On a scale of 1-10 (1 being less & 10 being the most) how much do we think the contents will be pirated. We chose 10.

The result was a staggering $350,000 loss in revenue in 6 months (Estimated)

According to Dataprot 

  • Pirated video material gets over 230 billion views a year
  • Digital video piracy is costing the US economy between $29.2 and $71 billion each year

Now, we know those who are pirating don’t care about how much revenue organizations are losing or how immoral it is.It’s all about the free content. But the impact is actually hurting deeper.

People are losing jobs because of digital piracy. “Piracy results in up to 560,000 industry job losses” says a study from the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center. One of the main reasons why people are flocking to online courses this pandemic through piracy is to save their career; unknowingly making many more people jobless.

Big Brands and Small Creators are being hurt by Online Piracy

We have covered the revenue & the industry impact of online course piracy but what about the content makers themselves. Putting hours of work, years of experience and not to mention tons of sacrifices to see their hard work floating around in the comment sections of reddit or in a cyberlocker is not a pleasant experience. These are the established content creators and artists we are talking about but what about the emerging content creators and artists? 

Digital piracy hurts these content creators the same way but for the emerging content creators it could be worse. It is easy to document and see losses for the bigger organizations and their content creators but what about the less documented ones, the ones who are less established, the ones who are independent creators struggling to make it. Be it photography courses, musical courses, app development courses, movie making courses when they are pirated the content creators lose their paychecks. Also worse, they may lose confidence, stop making better content or stop making content at all. 

What about the people that download infringing content?

Now to focus on the people who consume pirated online courses. Most online courses do come with certifications which can also be pirated, but they won’t be official. You can download the courses and watch the videos but it won’t get you the official certifications unless you pay for the course from the actual seller. Courses you complete without official certifications will not add value to your portfolio because you will not be able to back them up when you apply for a job or write them in your resume.

So, piracy of online courses will make content creators lose income, the audience will learn something new but won’t be able to prove their new skills without official certifications, the industry will lose money, employees will get fired and only the digital pirates will pocket some money by generating ads, reselling the courses at a cheaper price by scavenging or as Michael Caine’s portrayal of  Alfred Pennyworth states in Chrstopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn”

Uncomfortable Truth: Accept The Inevitable

So can it be stopped? The honest answer is: not likely. If you are a maker of online courses you have to accept the fact that digital piracy most likely will happen. It’s like a Hydra. You will cut off one head and two will take its place. You may follow the basics to prevent pirates from pirating the contents – 

  • Video Watermarking
  • Encrypted non-downloadable secure hosted video
  • Screen Capture Blocking
  • Secure Video Streaming
  • Certification for courses to be provided only with payment to the content source

These are the traditional methods of preventing piracy from occurring 

We can help you takedown illegal copies

There are also organizations like Onsist with more than a decade of expertise on dealing with taking down illegal and infringing copies of your content uploaded on the internet. This is what we call anti-piracy protection. This service is completely focused on finding illegal downloads, videos, images, etc. relating to your brand and then removing these infringing copies so users can only purchase your content legally.

Onsist has already been working with esteemed organizations who provide online courses such as CreativeLive, KelbyOne and MZed

CreativeLive is the world’s leading live, online classroom for creative entrepreneurs. MZed in the 50 years since it was founded by pioneering photographer Monte Zucker, has guided more than 100,000 people worldwide in achieving their artistic, creative and business goals. Onsist monitors both CreativeLive and MZed 24/7 taking down thousands of illegal and infringing copies of their content uploaded on the internet providing them with anti-piracy protection making sure users can only purchase their content legally.