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Can I use knowledge I've aquired through the internet, etc. for free for a business? Answered

                      I was thinking of starting to earn a little money by making custom computers, etc.  However, most or all of my knowledge of how to do things like this has come from places like Instructables, eHow.com, the local library, my friends, etc.  I was wondering if it is legal and ethical to make money using knowledge from these sources.  Recommendations and opinions are welcome.  Thanks!


P.S.  I apologize for any spelling/grammatical errors--I recently broke my wrist, and since typing is quite inconvenient in a cast, have tried to get my message across with as little typing or backspacing as could be managed.

Discussions

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mad magoo

9 years ago

             My plan would basically be to build custom computers for customers based on what they want out of their computer. For instance, I might build something with a lot of RAM and processor capability for someone who wants to play a lot of games, or something simple and generic for someone that wants an all-purpose computer.

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bmlbytes

9 years ago

As others have stated, common knowledge, also known as open knowledge or public information, is definitely legal to use. Copyright protected information, private information and information that is a trade secret is not legal to use.

For example, on the internet you can find several sources of information on  how to build computers. It is public information and is widely known information. You can build computers and sell those computers for a profit legally.

However, if you or someone else were to reverse engineer the Microsoft Surface, a new patented product to the market, and were to build a clone and sell that, then you would be violating patent laws and trade secrets.

To be more specific, why dont you tell us what you plan to do. It would make it easier to tell you weather or not your actions would be legal.

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orksecurity

9 years ago

Free legal advice on the Internet is worth what you pay for it. As a lawyer, I make a good locksmith. Having said that:

1) First, there's the distinction between information and its instantiation. Information, per se, can not be copyrighted. Any given instantiation of it can be, and these days is automatically unless the author explicitly releases it to the public domain or the copyright has run out its life (author's life plus some number of years, I believe). So you can't just take something off the web and publish it without  permission from the author (or other copyright holder), but you *can* take the idea, rewrite it from scratch in your own words, provide your own illustrations, and publish that... unless you accepted a license agreement which restricts that use.

2) License agreements state limitations on what you may do with the information. If you were presented with one, even as a click-through, you are probably bound by that agreement and can't do anything with the information it covers that it doesn't explicitly permit. To go beyond those limits, you must get the copyright holder's permission.

PLEASE NOTE: Even if use of the information is explicitly unrestricted, it's common courtesy to contact the author first, thank them, and tell them that you'd like to use their idea. They'll appreciate knowing that someone was interested, and they may well have come up with an improved version that they'd be willing to share with you.


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paganwonder

9 years ago

If you gathered the knowledge from an open source- "available to the common population" or you paid for the knowledge I believe you can use it as you will.  However, if the knowledge was gained as a direct result of employment then the knowledge belongs to your employer.  Example-  you are employed as a geologist for a mining company and in the course of doing your job you discover a valuable mineral deposit but instead of reporting the find to your employer you stake a claim on the find, keep it secret until you quit your job and then open a mine to extract the mineral.  As it turns out your former employer has the rights to the mineral because they paid you to find it.  (Hope that all made sense).

With intellectual property it gets very messy- to the extent that many companies require you to sign an agreement stating that anything you come up with while employed belongs to the company- worse yet, post employment if the company can prove you learned what you do as a result of employment then the company has rights to your profit.

If you are not employed by a computer company you are probably good to go.

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Jack A Lopez

9 years ago

I'm pretty sure that in most countries working for a living is illegal.

Well, let me back up a little bit.  The working part is OK.  But getting paid for it? That's definitely illegal. 

Look, they won't just put you in prison for it, because it doesn't work that way. Somebody has to do some work.  I mean, everybody would be in prison if it worked that way.  It's more like the way it is with speeding tickets, which work like this:  if you drive too fast, and you get caught doing it, then you have to pay a fine. Moreover, the amount of the fine increases with the speed that you were driving in excess of the legal limit.  Simple, right?

It's the same way with getting paid for work.  If you earn more than a certain amount of money, in a given time period (usually one year), and you get caught doing it, then the goverment is going to step in and make you pay a fine.  The amount of the fine is depends on how much money you were getting in excess of the legal limit.  The fines get worse the more money you make in excess of the legal limit.  The scheme by which this works, i.e. greater fines for greater amounts of  excessive earning, is called "progressive".

Do you have any idea what your government would do to you if they found out you were earning money, without them getting a piece of it?  Well I'll tell you what they'd do.  They'll come and take it from you by force, and then spend it on ignoble things like phony elections, and killing people, and torturing them, and also giving your money to the heads of major banks and insurance companies. Do you really want that?

So if you ever, ever, plan on doing any work, even if it's just to do the dishes, or mow your own lawn, and especially if there's the possibility of someone paying you for doing work... Good Lord, man!  Don't tell anyone about it!  Also, ask to be paid in cash, and only work for people you can trust.

BTW, I hope that wrist heals up. Take care. Don't work to hard, or not at all if you can manage it.
;-)

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seandogue

9 years ago

In general, as zerogx said, yes.

That is, the knowledge obtained is yours. Although, unless the *content is specifically noted as public, and especially if the content has been noted as being proprietary, no, you cannot use it without proper citation and or permission...

Even when people don't provide legal citation as to use/nonuse of their content, they generally don't want to turn around and find that someone has basically cut and pasted their info and garnered profit from it without any citation of the actual source. As a gross example, were someone to cut and paste an answer originally given here to someplace like yahoo answers where they might get a residual for that answer - although i don't know if yahoo answers does that, there are sites that do - it would be (imo) an immoral act . I hope you get my drift. There's a fine line, but it can and is crossed by some.

re: your writing/typing, it's fine. I have no broken wrist and am a terminal typo-ist. (critics be damned!). I'd much rather read content that makes sense but is punctuated, typed or spelled slightly out of whack, than to read material that is just plain whacky any day.

You were clear and had sufficient detail... that's all this glass-house critic requires anyway.

best wishes

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gmxx

9 years ago

it depends on what the knowledge is.

i would say that knowledge like how to build computers and stuff are fine.  

The only thing is if you found online yourself, its equally possible for others to find it, which may devalue your services. (then again, a lot of people probably won't go custom build thier own computers.)

If it is something that is more of a closed source / copyrighted thing, then no. For example, if i put up some info on how i built a custom processor using the parallax propellor, and marked it as close-source and copyright, then it would be illegal, and unethical for you to take my project and pass it off as your own.

I do a lot of web-design work. a lot of what i have learned was self-taught from various books, and websites. Can i take my knowledge, and sell it as a service and design websites? YES.

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gmxxgmxx

Answer 9 years ago

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, do not take my advice as being solid legal counsel. 

btw... for someone with  a broken wrist, your spelling and grammar were fine, better than some questions i have tried to answer.