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Educator looking to create an online course website/platform

New York, NY |

I am looking to create an online course platform to provide free information about different subjects. I would be looking to hire independent contractors for this. The categories would be about personal growth, social media, job searching etc... I am looking to do this not to make money from selling these courses but providing resources to people who are less fortunate. A concern is that the instructors re-publish materials already created for other companies, course material is copied from somewhere else, or the material is inaccurate as some of my concerns. I would like to know how many other things I will need to address. If I use screen shots can I just claim fair use as there is no monitization of these courses?

Attorney Answers 7

  1. Here are two outstanding sources for the legal issues that you are concerned about -- and all the issues that you haven't yet realized you need to be concerned about:

    Bruce Burdick legal guides:

    Bruce Burdick on Web-site businesses:

    No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.

  2. Before spending any money on this endeavor it would be wise for you to query Google for "free online education." There are literally hundreds of schools and other organizations that offer very good, and free, courses to anyone who wants to take them.

    The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

  3. There are all sorts of copyright issues involved, and you should consult an intellectual property lawyer.

    If you found this "helpful" or "best answer," please click it with my appreciation. My response is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice nor creates an attorney client relationship which requires all the details and a personal conference.

  4. You will need to differentiate yourself from the crowd to have a chance in this crowded field. Specialized course content is one way. A great catchy brand name (servicemark) is another. A uniquely appealing advertising blitz is another. Celebrity endorsement is another. Corporate sponsorship is another. An IP attorney that specializes in startups and has empathy for them and interest in helping them even though their initial business model is flawed, is what you need. I have no connection with any NY firm, so I can objectively recommend several to you. Attorney Frank Natoli ( seems to fit your needs best. Attorney Maurice Ross or Richard Straussman would also be great. All are top contributors to Avvo and all have a mindset to help startups.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

  5. Anytime you work with independent contractors you should make certain to get proper references and understand that even the most thoughtfully drafted agreements will not matter if they cannot be enforced. For example, even if your contract has a clearly written indemnification clause that would cover you in the event your provider used infringing material, what good is this indemnification if that provider is sitting in a studio apartment in Pakistan?

    Further, it matters not whether you make money on this and the fact that no money is made does not render your use "fair."

    It probably makes sense to discuss with a lawyer in private so all your plans and objectives can be clearly understood. Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

    Best regards,
    Natoli-Lapin, LLC
    (see Disclaimer)

    The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. Feel free to call for a free phone consultation; your inquiries are always welcome: CONTACT: 866-871-8655 DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.

  6. Are You Planning on Opening a New E-Commerce Website?

    There is much you need to know as you begin your new business. I suggest you do not attempt to write your own legal policies. This is not where your training and background lie, and though you are probably as smart as an attorney, you do not have their experience.

    Below is a checklist for legal issues I use for new e-commerce clients.

    1. Business entity - Are you going to be a C corp, an LLC or a sole proprietorship?
    2. Terms of Service - This is your contract with your visitors and is the most important item for any e-commerce site. A little work here brings big dividends in the future.
    3. Privacy Policy - Every e-commerce site needs a privacy policy!
    4. FTC guidlines - The FTC has been regulating business advertising for almost a century. All of their advertising guidlines apply to e-commerce sites.
    5. Domain Name issues? Is your name available. Can you create a Trademark?
    6. Trademark - Do you have a brand name free from conflict? Should you start with just common law rights? Should you register the mark, and when?
    7. Copyright - If it is on the web, it already belongs to somebody. Did you buy a license for the images you are using? Do you have a DMCA notice on your web site?
    8. Do you need a DMCA policy?
    9. Web Site security issues?
    10. Do you need and have an EIN? You can get that for free.
    11. Do you have employees? - If so you need written policies regarding their authority and use of the internet.
    12. Do you know the difference between a "browser wrap" and a "click wrap" and which do you need?

    When I discuss this list with clients other issues arise. Finally, I always discuss with my clients their need for good accounting services. An accountant's advice as you start up can save you many dollars in tax that you might not save if you wait to speak to an accountant until your first tax return is due.

    I hope this list will give you pause to think about those issues for which you might need to seek professional advice.

    You may want to discuss your situation with a lawyer in more detail. Most lawyers on Avvo, including myself, offer a free phone consultation.
    Andrew M. Jaffe
    Attorney at Law
    Practice Limited to E-Commerce and Internet Law

    This post is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice specific to you. This general information is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney in your jurisdiction. The attorney client relationship is not established by this post.

  7. This is a terrible idea -- it is a saturated environment. You would do much better as a contributor to Wikiversity (which is hosted by the foundation that operates Wikipedia as an educational resource) than trying to reinvent the wheel with yet another e-learning portal.

    The author is a Maryland attorney; however no answer given on Avvo is intended as legal advice or intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Dan's expertise lies in the electronic entertainment (video game) industry, as well as complex internet law issues, electronic free speech, entertainment law, copyright and trademark law, and computer fraud. He primarily represents game developers and founders of emergent internet technologies.

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