Open-source business models: Getid3's isn't gonna work

I've been poking around the idea of open-source business models since 1997. I like the idea, but they're difficult to make work. Very few have succeeded. I wanted to illustrate one model that I'm pretty sure is going to fail.

The project I'm currently working on requires that users be able to upload files and images to create interesting stories. We rely on a couple open-source modules (GPL'd) that work with the open-source content management framework Drupal (also GPL'd -- all free as in beer).

Two of these modules use another module (called GetID3) that has a dual-license: one for non-commercial use, one for commercial use. Fair enough. If you're making money with someone elses invention and hard work, one should pay a reasonable amount to support the original authors of that work.

However, this is where we get into the business model stuff. GetID3 is a bunch of php scripts and libraries that determine the metadata of multimedia objects (images, videos, documents) to provide useful information back to the user and or developer about precisely what kinds of files are being stored and accessed on their system. A useful thing, in most cases.

However, we had happend to install a buggy version of this, and in the course of debugging the problems we were having, came across the dual licensing requirements for GetID3. Looking a little deeper, it turns out that we'd be required to pay $1500 for a lifetime license for the library.

The GetID3 site (http://getid3.sourceforge.net/) lists about seven companies that have paid the fee over the past 3 years, and then requests the reader to let them know about other companies that might be using the module on their site without paying the fee.

I know that given the effort that must have gone into building these libraries, that $10,500 wouldn't begin to cover what it cost to develop them. Might have paid for some server fees. But the not so good part is that this information (the fee and the approach) instantly made me rethink the value of this library. Had the GetID3 team said, license fee: $75/yr -- no problem, would have recommended it in a second, even maybe $100/yr. But $1500/lifetime, plus bugs, plus attitude, no way.

So now I'm spending my afternoon looking for alternatives to getID3 to do what needs done, am saving my employer $1500, and will end up having the satisfaction of doing it myself, legally.

I guess the bottom line is, if the value exchange doesn't pan out, no matter what your license, it's not going to work. The trick is to get a value exchange that makes sense given the effort you put in to create the product, and the value it has to the end-user who has to both consume (and in this case, debug) the product.

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