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Delving into eLearning and IP protection

Due to the pandemic, many interactions nowadays have become digital. Online learning has also become increasingly popular due to the pandemic, making it a new norm. Educational institutions have adapted to online learning modality. Many universities and schools worldwide now host their course outlines and modules online and these institutions use LMS or learning management systems to sustain a distance learning modality. Students can now access course content from home though distance education learning.

Online course content seems to be the future of education. This provides adequate learning opportunities with added flexibility and self-paced learning but without the time management issues that face-to-face classes present. Because of the rising demand for course content, this material is vulnerable to exploitation. Course content creators may find their work reused or resold without permission. To prevent this, content creators must have adequate protection. As a course content creator, it is important to know how to protect intellectual property (IP) rights.

The article will navigate the process of drafting an eLearning intellectual property license agreement.

Learning Management Systems

Before delving into the IP license agreement, consider the medium of eLearning content or LMS. Learning Management Systems provide an accessible educational and training platform digitally. LMS delivers content and course outlines directly to users. LMS is simple to access. The information is easily attainable and users also gain new technical skills and refined critical thinking skills.

While different LMS offers different features, most LMS are capable of:

  • hosting an online course material in any type (audio, video, and document files);
  • allows forums, wikis, blogs, and direct messaging;
  • calculate, display, and convert data like grades;
  • enable users to edit, download, and upload for a variety of files types.

eLearning content creators must ensure to protect their intellectual property rights. Once way to do this is through an intellectual property license agreement. The type of agreement will differ on whether the person is a course creator or an external content provider. In each case, there are different IP rights to protect.

IP Rights of Course Creators

Course creators publish content for students to access directly. This can range from a simple lecture to an entire course syllabus. Therefore, the central concern is the possibility that a student may republish it on another platform. Regardless of the content, such action constitutes a breach of copyright.

For course creators to effectively protect their eLearning content, there needs to be an agreement with students who have direct course access. This agreement should set out the parameters of content usage and distribution. The course creator may specify in a license agreement that the content must be used for the purpose of the course alone and republishing and redistributing are prohibited. Students accept these license terms and conditions when signing up for the course.

IP Rights of External Content Providers

External content providers create content for the course creator. They categorize as freelance educational content writers, for example, for a university.

The biggest concern for external content providers is the unauthorized reuse of their content. In addition, they also run the risk of students republishing the content externally without permission.

Therefore, an external content provider needs an eLearning intellectual property license agreement with the course creator which states the following:

  • the provider retains intellectual property rights in the content (information, materials, content, graphics, text); and
  • the course creator does not own the content; and
  • the course creator may be responsible for their students’ misuse of the content.

The eLearning Intellectual Property License Agreement

Every intellectual property license agreement typically contains some key terms that characterizes the parameters of use and redistribution. Furthermore, it elaborates on how the content be used or changed.

Key Term Why it is Important
Using the content does not assign rights to the intellectual property Ensures retention of ownership. Allows the owner non-exclusivity to commercialize and reuse the content.
No republishing Prevent users from unauthorized republishing.
No sublicensing content Prevents content users from redistributing the content to other course creators.
No changing content Stops the content user from changing the content without permission.
No broadcasting content Stops the content user from broadcasting the content in public (e.g., over YouTube).
No derivative works Prevents content adaptation into new courses.

In addition to these key terms, consider the inclusion of tailored terms to cater to the specific circumstances of the content creator.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • restricting the age of users
  • setting a timeframe within which the content is accessible
  • other circumstances like payment terms

Key takeaways:

  • the increase of academic institutions globally use LMS for eLearning
  • content creators must protect their IP rights through appropriate agreements.


Jaclyn-Mae Floro, BCompSc

Contact W3IP Law on 1300 776 614 or 0451 951 528 for more information about any of our services or get in touch at
Disclaimer. The material in this post represents general information only and should not be taken to be legal advice.

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