Creator of the – often controversial
– gadget TV-B-Gone
Mitch Altman has made the surprising decision to open-source his nifty little IR dongle and allow anyone with the requisite skills to build their own.
The inventor describes the reasoning behind the brave decision over on the MAKE:Blog
, describing his decision to patent the device originally as protection against “large companies [...] copying TV-B-Gone remotes, since selling copies would open them up for being sued once my patent is granted.
Strangely, it was a hackers' conference that changed Altman's mind on the subject. After talking to passionate hackers who “see these [patent] laws as obsolete and obnoxious
” and realising that applying for a patent on his device “stifles the creativity that patents were supposed to encourage
”, he opted to completely open-source the nifty gadget: full plans, copies of the firmware source code, board layouts, the works.
Altman sees the release of the design behind the device as being payback for the help he has received from the open source community since the device first went on sale. Third-party hacks that required an original TV-B-Gone unit drove increased sales, and suggestions and ideas on how to improve the device lead to “versions of TV-B-Gone remotes [that] were considerabitly better than the original.
Altman isn't giving away the crown jewels willy-nilly, however: the product will be licensed under the Creative Commons scheme, which will allow for modification and use of the device while removing the possibility for a company to commercially exploit Altman's designs without cutting him a cheque. The best of both worlds: Altman gets recognition and rewards for what is, whether you agree with the sentiment behind it or not, a nifty little gadget, and hordes of hackers get to play with – and improve – the design to their hearts content.
Tempted to build your own TV-B-Gone once the plans are made available, or is the product odious even when stripped of patents? Share your thoughts over in the forums