In this blogpost I will address copyright issues combined with private label rights and commercial use rights – since that is the niche I’m in.
First let’s state a few terms.
Copyright Infringement: is the use of works protected by copyright without permission for a usage where such permission is required, thereby infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works. Wikipedia
Commercial Rights: I strongly suggest you read this website to get a better understanding of the term, but as I’ve always said – if you buy something with commercial rights or private label rights or master resell rights, read the license that comes with it, because there might be small differences between each seller.
When it comes to copyright laws, they vary from country to country, but most of the online entrepreneurs use the US understanding of International copyright law, which you can read more about here.
A key thing to remember: You’re only allowed to use the ® symbol if you’ve actually registered the name in your country. AND it only applies to products in your country, unless you’ve registered in other countries as well.
Example: If I register MyCourseName in Norway, I’m allowed to promote it with MyCourseName ® all over the world, but someone in the US can register the same name there, and call it MyCourseName ® too. It will then be 2 different courses, named the same, but only because none of us registered it in a worldwide context.
When it comes to the ™ symbol, this makes people aware that you’re planning on applying for an ®. If you’re applying for an ®, and it gets accepted, the ® is valid for 10 years, and only for what it specifically says on the legal documents.
If you only applied for using MyCourseName on digital courses, other businesses are allowed to use it on printed goods like t-shirts, but then without the ® of course, if they haven’t registered it themselves.
This is why it’s essential that before you name your business or your products, that you do some research.
How To Research Copyright
Start with the domain name – if it’s taken, move on to something else.
Search in google and facebook, pinterest and instagram. See if you find someone else using the name already. If it’s marked with ™ or ® then move on, but you should also consider moving on if you see someone else already calling their business the name you had planned for. And even if the domain is not taken, just move on.
Because if you decide to apply for an ®, you can risk not getting accepted if the other product has been in the market for years, or is similar to the product you want to register.
So, how does this affect commercial use products or PLR.
Namely there are 3 things you can’t do with a commercial use right product:
- Claim copyright (you can only brand it, not put a © on it)
- Name the original seller as the lawfully owner
- Resell the resell rights
These are simple rules to live by:
1. Only one person or entity can own the copyright of something. This means that only the person who created the product in the first place owns the copyright. But you’re allowed by the one with the copyright, to add your brand, alter the product and sell it as your own, but not as a creator, just a seller.
2. Since you’re altering the product, it’s not fully copyright anymore. The original templates(if it’s a digital product) are still being used by you, and are copyrighted, but you’ve put your brand and colors on it, maybe added a few pages, so now it’s a standalone product. Even though you’ve altered it, you’re not allowed to claim copyright, since you’re using other people’s original creations.
What Am I Allowed To Do?
When cases around copyright enters the internet sphere, a lot of questions arises, like:
Can’t I create a Happiness Planner or a Recipe Binder anymore?
Of course you can. But you can’t copy a Happiness Planner and claim copyright for it.
Can’t I sell a Happiness Planner or Recipe Binder with commercial rights anymore?
You can. But you can’t copy a Happiness Planner and claim copyright for it.
If I write a book, and are calling it ABC – learning to read, is that copyright infringement?
Not necessarily, but here comes your need to do due diligence work, search and see if you can find other books with this title (there are probably several). If none of them has an ® included, then you’re free to call it what you want.
I’m not a lawyer by degree, but I once started that route of education, so I do have some knowledge. And although laws and regulations change over time, copyright does not.
But not under any circumstances are you allowed to copy someone else’s work, make a few changes and then claim it to be your work.
We all get influenced by the people we look up to, the people we work with and people we sell to. We get ideas, we might be in the same niche offering the same type of products, but there’s a line that one should never cross.
Real Life Copyright Infringement
My two biggest online crushes, Denise DT and Bushra Azhar, both have had their signature courses Money Bootcamp and Sold Out Launch copied and sold through other channels, for a fraction of the cost. Copied word by word, images and all. That’s fraud and illegal of course.
But what if I, after having taken Money Bootcamp, want to create a course on money mindset, can I do that?
Yes, I can.
But I need to use my own words, I need to use personal examples, I need to change the layout of the course. I need to use my own logo, my own images, my own branding.
I can’t have 5 modules, named exactly the same as Denise’s, and cover the exact same subtopics as her course. Since I’ve already taken her course, I would know what she covers and what the modules are called. So it’s a simple tweak on my part, and then it will no longer be the exact same course, although we cover the same topic.
I could also get in trouble if I call my course Money Bootcamp Mindset or anything with Money Bootcamp in it for that matter. Not because Money Bootcamp Mindset is ®, but because the similarity of the programs could be claimed to be copyright infringement.
The Issue With Commercial Right Licenses
But then, what if you buy a course with resell rights?
Then 1000’s of people can buy the same course, and literally sell the same product.
I experienced this myself back in 2020. I bought 2 different bundles, and when going through the courses, I discovered that 2 of them were just about identical. I thought it had to do with copyright infringement, but it turned out it didn’t. It was due to commercial rights licenses.
The contributors had not put their heart and soul into the course, and branded it with their tone and voice and words and images. They had just copy/pasted all of it from the original creator, and made a new logo and then sold it.
They hadn’t put any © on them, so they hadn’t done anything wrong. But this again goes to show, change the commercial rights products you buy.
I’m to blame here as well, because in the very beginning of my commercial use journey, I used the products as they were, just put my name on them. But they’re not “me”. And I’ve stopped promoting them, and now I change almost everything, unless I actually just create new courses from scratch.
Right now, if you’ve read the above, you are probably wondering how I can make the claim that one was not copied? Well, because I bought access to a major commercial use products provider, and inside of that membership, I found the same course.
And what I also found out, was that one of the businesses in question above, apparently also got access to all of their other products, just like me, and that she’s made a huge success using these products as courses.
Does it prevent me from launching courses with the use of products with commercial rights? Absolutely not. Am I worried about being accused of copyright infringement? All the time.
But that’s why I try to change everything I use, into my own words. That way it’s my creation, and I also have a license saying I’m allowed to sell the products to end customers.
How To Avoid Copyright Issues
There’re 2 easy ways though to avoid copyright issues:
- Don’t copy someone else’s work, even if they don’t have the ® present. It’s still their work. They created it, they own the copyright. Just create your own product.
- Keep a file on your computer with all licenses when it comes to commercial right licensed products. You can also take a screenshot of the sales page where you bought the product. This way you can show that you’ve actually paid for the product and are allowed to put your brand/business name on it, but not the © or ®
I hope you found this post helpful, and that you’re now less scared of using products with commercial rights or PLR.