There is no point in putting all the work into your online content, course, or event only to leave the door open to thieves who count on you not having your business in order. Protect your passion and profits before it’s too late.

Answer these four questions and see if your content and courses are protected from copycats:


You are ultimately making your content to be seen and used, but not copied. And It is up to you to put people on notice about how they can and cannot use the worksheets, videos, pictures, and other downloadables you are using to provide your services/products online

A fair amount of copying and sharing happens when someone sees content that is useful and wants to share the wealth. But of course there are those down right unbelievable instances of people swiping your content and attempting to resell it thinking there will be no consequences.

This notice needs to be bold, in caps, and visible at multiple points of entry for your audience.

You need language that clearly tells people that by coming to your site they agree to abide by these rules or else you will enforce your legal rights (i.e. copyrights).

More than half the battle against thieves is setting up simple deference mechanisms like this. Letting thieves know clearly and unmistakably you will protect your intellectual property will slow a number of copycats in their tracks because they are LAZY which is why they are steal in the first place.

Show them you know your value, you know your intellectual property rights, and will protect it boldly and in print across your site in crystal clear language.


One of the newest tactics online thieves are using is to actually purchase your course or ALL of your courses and then record them, download all your materials, and then demand a refund before selling them at a cheaper price.

First make sure you have your terms of use in place warning against copying, THEN double check that you have a CLEARLY STATED return policy on your sales pages that has the correct language terms and conditions that are specific to your products/services. A link to the same policy should appear on any checkout page and also in any confirmation email that provides login information or content downloads.

Having a clear and visible return policy will help you in case someone FILES A DISPUTE with PayPal, Etsy, or whatever other platform you are using to demonstrate the customer was aware BEFORE and at the time of purchase what the refund policy was and eliminate any argument they were blindsided by your refusal to provide a refund.

But this won’t necessarily help you if they claim you falsely advertised results your products didn’t actually achieve?


A disclaimer is going to be your best friend in enforcing your refund policy. This is especially true if you used client testimonials when selling your products. You want to have clear language that states you cannot guarantee anything. Nothing in this world can be guaranteed!

Similar to your return policy and language regarding unauthorized copying you want to have your disclaimers visible when you utilize testimonials, share results of previous clients, or provide any kind of online coaching, consulting, or advise.

(See our legal notice here that clearly states information in this blog is not individualized legal advice)


So now you have all your policies up and in the right places. Are you prepared to actually enforce against copycats? Do you know how to submit a takedown notice?

Do you have a cease and desist template you can quickly fire off?

Most, importantly do you have your content registered with the copyright office?

I know the process can seem daunting but it is well worth it to have your ducks in a row when someone steals your stuff. Without a registered copyright you have no legal standing in court against thieves. Without a registered copyright the takedown process is much more difficult than if you are easily able to show legal ownership.

There is no point in putting all the work into your online content, course, or event only to leave the door open to thieves who count on you not having your business in order.

Protect your passion and profits before it’s too late CLICK HERE to schedule a free discovery call

In the first quarter of 2022 alone, over 1.2 million business applications were filed. Surprisingly, 99% of businesses are small businesses. The exact definition of a small business can vary from state to state, but it generally has three criteria. First, how much revenue is being generated. The qualifying amount ranges between $1-$40 million per year. The next qualification is the number of employees that work for the business. Less than 500 employees is considered the standard. The final indicator is the business organization which the company files for. Sole proprietorships or partnerships are generally what small businesses are categorized under with very many fitting into the LLC and S-Corp category.  They range from traditional family owned brick-and-mortar stores to ETSY style businesses that run completely online. Professional practices, such as law firms and chiropractic offices, are also considered small businesses. 

Unfortunately, while businesses have been increasing, their threats have been as well. 

Two of the biggest threats to small businesses are pirating and counterfeit goods. 


Piracy is known as the act of illegally reproducing and distributing copyrighted materials. Watching bootlegged movies or illegally downloading music is a very common practice, which incurs great profit loss within multiple industries. There is an estimated combined $170 billion loss of revenue and 360 billion loss of streams in the media due to pirated content. 

A counterfeit item is defined as physical fake goods that infringe on trademarks or patents. These are often imitations of expensive brand name items that are sold for a much lower price or black market versions of pricey prescription medications or supplements. When these goods are in circulation, they can “dilute” the original brand. Brand dilution related to counterfeit items occurs when consumers have an altered, normally negative, perception of the original brand or goods due to confusion between the original and the dupe. 

The counterfeit market has grown to become a $500 billion industry that contributes to a yearly loss of revenue between $1.7-$4.5 trillion. Counterfeit goods are often much lower quality than their authentic counterparts with sometimes deadly effects from defective products or dangerous chemical interactions with unknown ingredients. 

To prevent piracy and/or counterfeiting as discussed above, it is important to make use of legal tools such as filing copyrights and trademarks. If a business produces creative media such as photographers, videographers, film makers, course creators, or online coaching a stolen version of the work that is subsequently pirated will likely fall under a violation of copyright law. Whereas, if a business produces a physical good such as clothing, cosmetics, jewlery, or purses are experiencing fake versions of the product being sold on the internet as an authentic item this likely would fall under a violation of trademark law. 

When every single dollar counts, trademarks and copyrights can operate as key legal tools for small business owners to ensure they are protecting themselves from thieves and copycats in the market looking to prey on unprepared brands and businesses


Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. An original work of authorship is a work that is independently created by a human author and possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. Examples of original works include musical works, choreography, art, movies, books, and more.  Although copyright exists automatically at the time of creation, registration with the US Copyright Office is necessary to enforce the exclusive rights of the creator. 


A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these that identify a goods or services. Examples include but are not limited to product names, logos, slogans, and trade dress, which is the physical look of the product.   Common Law rights to a trademark are established by consistently utilizing a mark in connection with a business or product but do not provide owners the nationwide right to exclusively utilize a trademark in connection with a good or service. The right to be the only user of a particular trademark can only be obtained through federal registration of a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. 

What does this mean for small business owners?

When it comes to enforcing IP rights and protecting the cornerstones of what makes a small business profitable, owners must stay vigilant. It is important to constantly search for infringement, as if it is not reported then the losses will continue to occur and in some cases may be considered a waiver of rights. Additional ways to protect a business or brand against piracy and counterfeiting include: platform take down requests, cease & desist letters, or legal action via courts or small claims boards.

Take Down + Cease & Desist

If  an infringement is found, business owners can often report the infringing content to be removed and taken down from the platform. Additionally, a cease and desist letter to the infringing party notifying them of their infringement and misconduct and to stop the infringement immediately are often utilized by brands to show the seriousness of the matter and to enforce applicable rights.  

Courts + Copyright Small Claims Board

Once a copyright is registered, owners have the ability to engage courts to enforce their applicable rights to stop counterfeiting and infringement. An additional resource is the newly operational Copyright Small Claims Board. This board provides a simple, virtual, and cost-efficient way to settle copyright disputes up to $30,000 additionally utilization of the board is available to all copyright owners even without prior registration.

If small businesses make up 99% of all businesses the  billion dollar counterfeit and pirating industry undoubtedly impacts small businesses the most. When every single dollar counts, trademarks and copyrights can operate as key legal tools for small business owners to ensure they are protecting themselves from thieves and copycats in the market looking to prey on unprepared brands and businesses.

About the Authors:

Liberty Bing is a Spring 2022 intellectual property intern for the Law Firm of Lawson McKinley. Liberty is a Pre-Law Business Management major at the University of Georgia. Liberty sits on the Terry Student Diversity Advocacy Counsel and has previous internship experience in marketing and strategic management.

Whitnie Riden Esq is an Associate at the Law Firm of Lawson McKinley in its Sports and Intellectual Property practice areas. She is a graduate of Georgia State University and Atlanta’s John Marshall College of Law.

Legal Notice:

The information contained in this post is for informational and education purposes only and should not be considered in any manner as legal advice and should not be relied upon for timeliness or accuracy. This article is not intended to create (nor does it) an attorney-client relationship between readers and the author organization. Readers should not act upon any information found within this post without first seeking professional legal counsel. Any views expressed by readers in comments to blog posts or in guest posts are not necessarily the views of the Law Firm of Lawson McKinley or the authors. Readers leaving comments grant Law Firm of Lawson McKinley the right to edit or modify such comments and and to edit or delete such comments for any reason.