July 2nd, 2018 E-Learning

Videos are extremely popular in online courses, but how do you prevent people from stealing the content?

This is a question we often get ask to our support so I thought I would take a minute to discuss videos and online video security. There are a number of great tools out there that you can use for locking-down your video access, but before jumping into those options I think it is important to note one thing: nothing is foolproof.

In other words, if someone really wants to steal your content then you can’t really stop them. They can open recording software and just record what is on their screen. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this hardly matters, and practically no one will do it.

Nonetheless I recognize that it doesn’t feel good knowing that someone is doing this. It happens with our software every single day. What you need to remember is that the people searching for freebies are not the people you want as customers anyhow. There are also some subtle strategies you can use to give these people a little “heartburn” which I will get to at the end of this article.

Here is the easy way to add security to videos.

By far the easiest way to add security to your videos is to leverage a video hosting service. My recommendation across the board is to use one of the following:

Both platforms have some really great security settings in place to prevent hotlinking of your videos. This is where someone gets the direct video URL to download or stream the video elsewhere. What is nice about either of the options above is that you can specify the URL where that video is allowed to play.

So for example, if I had a video that I only wanted to be visible on LearnDash.com, then I can configure the video to only play on this site. If someone tries to directly access elsewhere or embed that video on another site then it won’t work. This takes about one minute to configure. It’s about as easy as it gets and will deter 99% of any video pirating issues.

There is another (less easy) way.

If you don’t want to use one of the programs above then you could consider modifying your .htaccess file to prevent direct linking to your videos that you are hosting on your own website. It’s a little more technical and will require you to do some trial-and-error but it’s doable by following instructions like this.

I still prefer the easy method with Vimeo or Wistia because it also has some additional benefits, least of which is that the video are not hosted on your site but are rather taking up server space elsewhere.

Video files are pretty large and if you have a lot of them then you will need to have some robust hosting in place so that they don’t timeout. In other words, you will be paying more for hosting per month and that additional price may equal to (or exceed) what you pay for video hosting with one of the platforms above.

Consider doing these little tricks as well.

As mentioned, if someone wants to rip-off the video then they will. However, that doesn’t mean you need to make it easy. Here are some things you can do to make life difficult for those sharing (or those downloading) the content:

  1. Follow-up with DMCA notices. Set-up a Google alert for your course name. Whenever someone talks about it (including when they are sharing it somewhere) you will be notified. Many of these blackhat forums have a place where you can submit a DMCA notice. Once you do this once you can just re-use the same template so it won’t take very long after the first time. Content is generally removed in a timely manner.
  2. Update on a regular basis. Whenever possible try to update your content and make it known that your content is updated on a regular basis. This means that if someone does get a hold of your videos that they will be outdated eventually, and no one likes outdated information. At the beginning (or end) of your videos make a point to mention how you are constantly updating and that a benefit to being a customer is that the content is guaranteed to be fresh.
  3. Add communities as a supplement to content. Content can be ripped-off but community cannot. Create a community around your course content as a value-add for your offering.

These are just a few ways you can get the upper-hand when it comes to content protection.

Last, I want to encourage you to think about content theft in another way. The truth is that if someone is stealing your content then you should take it as a compliment. It means you created something worth stealing. Be proud of that! 🙂

Justin Ferriman photo

About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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20 responses

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Good article. Very useful and helpful.

Avatar Joel MacDonald

How do you feel about hosting the video on Amazon S3 ? There are also security options and not expensive.

Also a good option!

It is possible to use Amazon S3 protected video (with an Access Key ID) with the Video Progression options for LearnDash Lessons?

Avatar JB

Good answer to my question

Avatar Tom

For Youtube videos, is there a way to remove the “Share” feature at the top? I tried to disable the “youtube controls” for the video viewing experience, but it seemed like it wouldn’t allow the viewer to expand the video, and it also looked like the “Share” feature was still present.

hola es posible proteger el contenido escrito?

I do not believe this is true. Although you can share videos only to be visible to specific viewers on Wistia, you cannot limit it to embedded URLs.

If I am mistaken, then please let me know exactly how you would do this.

Avatar Søren

I have not just videos but also audios and PDFs in my course. What is the best free plugin to protect my course files (wp media) from direct URL access, that is compatible with learndash?

Avatar Sue


Is there a setting with which I could let visitors see single lessons written content, but reserving videos and attachments for paid students? So visitor could see the lesson page, but not the video and download links. Is that possible?

Avatar Mauro

I need to be able to let my clients download videos that I have on vimeo – and that I have put in the leardash on my wordpress page.
On vimeo I have made them downloadable – but still I can not find the way to let people download in lessons?
Can you help me?

I am a LD customer. Even with Vimeo pro people are able to share the url of private videos after enrolling to a course. How to stop sharing?

It’s not really possible to stop all sharing. If someone wants to steal it, they will unfortunately. The Vimeo features help combat this though.

Use same tech as Netflix. Check what they use. It is publicly available.

Another option is Amazon S3 CDN streaming scalable option. It protects from all sharing and downloading except the screengrab.

Avatar Ivan Roca

My client has a wordpress website with a Learning Management Tool (LearnDash).

They have asked if they can inegrate videos from Streaming Video Provider – please can you advise if “Streaming Video Provider” is compatible with LearnDash

Avatar E

I would like to disagree. Amazon Prime hosts millions of videos, yet you cannot screen record their movies because it will blackout. Also it’s impossible to download them. Same with Netflix and Hulu. So if they have that security, why can’t the rest of us little guys be given an option for the same protection?

Avatar Nicole Marie

There is the Vimeo Private Downloader extension. Is Vimeo Pro’s protection effective against it?

Avatar Meir

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