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Violating a non-compete agreement

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I work primarily using the various freelance platforms on the Internet. Currently I use one platform exclusively, but have used another in the past and want to use others in the future. I just read my contract with the current platform in depth and realized that it contains a non-compete clause that prohibits me from partnering with any competing freelance platform for a period of two years after my contract with them ends. The platform I used before may have also had a restrictive period in its non-compete clause, in which case I'm currently in violation of it, though I honestly neither know nor even have access to that information any longer. How seriously should I take this? The reason I examined my contract thoroughly is because it's hard to fill up my schedule using the current platform alone, and I wanted to see whether I could work on two sites simultaneously. Observing the two year restrictive period is going to necessitate a drastic change in lifestyle. While it'sunlikely that representatives of any platform will find outs out my working for any other or care, it bothers me that I am breaking my commitment to maximum morality. Thoughts?

Edited by happiness

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3 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Did you receive a benefit from the non-competition clause?  Were you offered preferred pricing, discounts, etc.?

No. Does that come into play?

Edited by happiness

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5 hours ago, happiness said:

No. Does that come into play?

Well, contracts are assumed by the courts to be equitable to both parties.  If it's just boiler-plate language buried in a EULA that is one thing, and you might not be obligated to respect it.  How many of us read EULA's?  If there is something buried in a EULA for a $99 software that obligates us to sign over the deed to our house, then the courts would not respect it - nor would you be morally obligated to respect it either.

Is such a non-compete claus,e as you describe the industry-standard?  If this is the way that you are making a living, then you probably should ask your legal adviser if it is truly impacting your income.

Edited by New Buddha

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14 hours ago, happiness said:

I work primarily using the various freelance platforms on the Internet.

Firstly, what are these "platforms"?

It doesn't really impact the issue either way, except that now (after a Google search proved inconclusive) the curiosity is going to drive me insane.

 

14 hours ago, happiness said:

I just read my contract with the current platform in depth and realized that it contains a non-compete clause that prohibits me from partnering with any competing freelance platform for a period of two years after my contract with them ends.

Secondly, isn't a "contract" a formalization of a promise; of someone explaining their plans for the future, before acting on them (and any possible modification being derivative)?

 

Suppose you promised to be a Grueman, without having any idea what that meant (perhaps in order to trade with me), and later found out that it means "someone who participates in a mass suicide on the next solar eclipse".

Would you feel guilty about breaking that promise? Of course not - because you wouldn't have made it, in the first place, if you'd understood what it meant.

This isn't any different.

 

At the very worst, you might be guilty of having agreed to something you didn't fully understand (when you first signed this contract). However, even if that's the case (and you'd be better off breaking it) your actual sin is in the past; it'd do no good to double down on it, now.

 

15 hours ago, happiness said:

While it's unlikely that representatives of any platform will find outs out my working for any other or care, it bothers me that I am breaking my commitment to maximum morality.

Thirdly, are you sure that's what you're doing?

 

Since morality is about choices, which are contextual (to the knowledge available to you), it's also contextual to the sum of that knowledge. Nobody can demand omniscience or infallibility of you - especially not yourself.

While I'm not ruling out the possibility of any sort of wrongdoing (such as making undefined promises that you shouldn't keep), opening yourself up to the scrutiny of the entire internet doesn't seem like the action of a guilty person, to me.

 

In sum, while you're not necessarily wrong about any particular point, they all merit further elaboration.

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There are different kinds of freelance platforms...the kinds I use don't guarantee you work, they're just a conduit between employers and clients (I use them both to employ people and find clients). All they do is act as a platform for advertising jobs (and, some, as an escrow and arbitrator). And yeah, if any of them turned out to have some silly clause hidden in the user agreement, I wouldn't care. As far as I'm concerned, it's a simple transaction, where I pay them for a service. There are no other strings attached, and good luck trying to attach any by hiding it in a wall of text no one ever reads. That would be entirely unenforceable, and for good reason.

But there are also platforms that effectively hire you: they provide training, they test you to make sure you're qualified, and guarantee work. I've never used one, but I can see how they wouldn't want you to work for the competition, after they've done all that. So, if you sign a contract, that's essentially the same as becoming an employee.

Obviously, you can still get away with working for the competition, and there would be no way for them to tell...not unless the competition or a client tells on you...but you have to wonder if it would be fair. Perhaps, instead of working for a direct competitor, you could just find your own clients, using a regular freelance platform like the ones I described in the first paragraph.

More importantly, why not just ask the company you work for about what their goal is with that non-compete. I bet it's not meant to stop you from finding extra work on your own. It's probably mostly just aimed at stopping you from poaching clients, or quitting and signing up with a competitor.

Edited by Nicky

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