Is it legal to sell information to a company that has been published in a book and is public information, if most people aren’t aware of?

Asked on November 10, 2012 under Business Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you can sell public information, including information published in a book, and doing so is perfectly legal. Consider phone numbers: they are public, but companies make money selling them (e.g. the companies who publish phone books); and someone could cull the information from the phone book and resell it, such as selling a restaurant supply store the names and phone numbers of all the restaurants in the area. The only restriction on this would be contractual--that is, did you sign any agreement, such as in buying or being given access to the book, that would prevent you from doing this? If there is no contractual restriction, you can go ahead; publically available information is not protected by intellectual property (e.g. copyright laws), though the particular way the information is displayed or arranged may be--that is, you can't just photocophy it from the book, but need to retype it, striping out all design or layout elements, or anything other than the public information itself.

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