How to Use AI to Create Your Online Course Without Forfeiting Copyrights

AI is one of the big hot button issues in the online business world right now, especially in the realm of online course creation and copyright. If a course creator...

mockup of PDF cover that says "Online course terms and conditions made simple: An Easy To Understand Guide to Protecting Your Online Course"

Course Terms & Conditions Guide!

Learn what your course terms & conditions should include to protect your course from IP theft and refund abuse in this FREE guide!

How to Use AI to Create Your Online Course Without Forfeiting Copyrights

AI is one of the big hot button issues in the online business world right now, especially in the realm of online course creation and copyright. If a course creator...

mockup of PDF cover that says "Online course terms and conditions made simple: An Easy To Understand Guide to Protecting Your Online Course"

Course Terms & Conditions Guide!

Learn what your course terms & conditions should include to protect your course from IP theft and refund abuse in this FREE guide!

AI is one of the big hot button issues in the online business world right now, especially in the realm of online course creation and copyright. If a course creator uses AI to create their course, do they have ownership rights to the generated content? That’s what we’ll be answering in this post! We’re exploring how to use AI to create a course that not only captivates your audience but also ensures you retain full copyright ownership

Whether you’re new to online courses or looking to enhance your existing content, join us as we dig into the smart ways AI can assist you in your creative journey without compromising your ownership rights.

What We'll Cover...

Exploring the Role of AI in Course Creation

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Topic: How to Use AI to Create a Course

In the realm of online courses, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is not just a buzzword; it’s a game-changer.

AI acts as a fast-working content creation assistant ready to help you with everything from generating creative content ideas to structuring your course layout. 

It can cut course creation time in half (or, at least by a heckuva lot) when used right, which is every course creator’s dream since courses take a LOT of time to create.

From content ideas to data analysis to content outlines and generation, AI can really make course creation a breeze.

But before you run to AI to make all the things easier for your course, there’s one important legal thing you need to consider. 

Copyright.

Copyright is what protects your creative works from those pesky copycats, so getting and protecting copyrights is pretty stinking important for online course creators.

That’s where AI can create an issue. To get copyright protection, a creative work has to have a human author. And in 2023, it became clear that AI-generated content does not qualify under this standard.

The U.S. Copyright Office has issued guidance that the output of generative AI systems are not copyrightable. And it has repeatedly refused copyright protection to AI-generative work under this standard.

And the Copyright Office isn’t alone in this conclusion. A U.S District Judge in Washington, DC, ruled that only works created by a human being receive copyrights

So what does this mean for course creators?

It means you have to walk a careful line in how you use AI during your course creation journey… at least if you want to have copyright protection in the end product. 

Protecting Copyrights While Using AI to Create Your Course

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Topic: How to Use AI to Create a Course

While there are countless ways you could use AI to help with your course creation process, there are three routes that you can use that won’t foreclose copyright protection. 

But before we get to those routes, there are a few legal concepts that you should understand. 

Copyright does not protect ideas… it protects the particular expression of an idea. In other words, copyright law does not protect things like the ideas you teach in a course; it protects the particular way you teach those ideas. 

You can get copyright protection for an overall work even if some elements of it are not protectable. This idea may be a bit confusing. Luckily, the Copyright Office’s ruling in one AI case helps to clear it up. 

The Copyright Office granted a limited copyright to a graphic novel called “Zarya Of The Dawn,” which included artwork created by Midjourney (an AI tool that helps create images). 

The Copyright office ruled that the images created by Midjourney were not protectable, but the text portions and arrangement of images was protected. You can read more about the decision here

One last issue to make note of: The Copyright Office treats applications on a case-by-case basis. While some rules are clear, a lot of these issues are shades of gray, which means we can’t tell you 100% what will happen. 

That being said, here are three approaches to using AI in your course creation process for you to consider:

Route 1: Use AI To Assist With Ideas (SAFEST!)

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Topic: How to Use AI to Create a Course

Because copyright protection attaches to the particular expression of an idea, not the idea itself, the clearest way to use AI without sacrificing copyright protection is to use AI to help you generate ideas. 

In other words, instead of using AI to create the final product, use it to help brainstorm earlier in the process. 

Because ideas aren’t protected, it doesn’t matter that AI helped you create them. The final product will be your particular expression of the idea. That will qualify as a copyrightable work. 

Here’s an example: Use AI for initial research or to draft a basic course outline and then use your own expertise and unique teaching style to create the actual teaching elements. 

In that case, the research results and basic course outline won’t be protectable because they were generated by AI… but those elements aren’t what really matter to your business. 

Your finished course will be fully protected because you were the author. 

Route 2: Use AI For First Drafts But Revise Heavily 

If you want to get a bit more help from AI (and are okay with a bit more risk), you could use AI to create first drafts that you then revise heavily. 

In explaining how it would approach granting copyrights where AI was involved, the Copyright Office explained that “an artist may modify material originally generated by AI technology to such a degree that the modifications meet the standard for copyright protection.” 

In other words, at some point, the changes you make to AI-generated works will be so significant that they become copyrightable. 

There are a couple of things to consider before going down this route:

First, it is not clear exactly how significant those changes need to be. There’s no clear line here, and the Copyright Office hasn’t issued enough decisions to really draw much of a conclusion on where the line is. 

In other words, you might put a ton of time into revisions only to have the Copyright Office decide you didn’t do enough. Ugh! 

Second, even if you cross the line, the Copyright Office has said: “In these cases, copyright will only protect the human-authored aspects of the work….” 

In other words, the content that you didn’t change will not be protected, only your changes are protected. 

Using AI to create first drafts will certainly make your life easier, but it will also create greater risks and limit your copyright protection. 

Route 3: Combine AI-Generated Content With Human-Created Content

The final approach is to go the route specifically sanctioned in the case of “Zarya Of The Dawn.” You could use AI to create certain discrete parts of your course but combine those elements with things you create from scratch. 

If you go this route, you’ll get protection for the elements you created from scratch and for the overall organization and combination of elements in the course. 

Let’s put this in concrete terms…

If you aren’t a graphic designer, you could rely on AI tools to create images and design elements for your course while you focus on creating the other content. 

In that case, the AI generated images and designs won’t be protected (so someone else could lift them from your course and use them elsewhere), but the course as a whole (and your words) will be safe. 

We can certainly see this approach working for a lot of course creators because you probably care more about someone ripping off your entire course a lot more than someone using one of the images in your course! 

Protect your online course intellectual property with rock-solid terms and conditions! Click here to grab our FREE guide to creating an online course terms and conditions that’ll keep your content protected!

Conclusion

AI can be a powerful tool in course development, enhancing content creation, personalizing learning experiences, and offering data-driven insights for course improvement. But overusing AI to create your course content could jeopardize your chance at a copyright. 

For your course to be copyrightable, the final product needs to be a work of “human authorship,” and that means keeping your creative hand in the process. 

But protecting your intellectual property doesn’t stop there! 

With Plainly Legal™’s smart Legal Doc Generator, you can draft rock-solid online course terms and conditions in minutes, ensuring you’re protected from content bandits, refund abuse, and more!

Click here to learn more about how Plainly Legal™ can help you protect your online business!

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