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VST 3 SDK Licensing FAQ

Posted: Fri Mar 03, 2017 3:18 pm
by ygrabit
VST 3 SDK Licensing Issues
This developer use case guide will help you to decide which VST3 licensing model to choose.

1. What are the licensing options for VST3?
You can choose between the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" or the "Open-source GPLv3" license (dual-license) depending on how you like to distribute your plug-in/host. This license can be found at http://www.steinberg.net/sdklicenses.

1.1 "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license
The "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license allows you to distribute your plug-in/host in a binary form. It comes with requirements though.
You need written permission from Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH in order to distribute your plug-in/host.
You need to mention ***Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH*** in the about box and/or documentation of your plug-in/host.

For more detail please read the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" License agreement, if you accept it you have to fill it, sign it and send it back to us per post (at the Steinberg address mentioned in the license) or per email (reception@steinberg.de) or per fax (+49 (0)40 210 35-300). We will sign it and send it back to you.
  • as PDF : Licensing Issues PDF
  • as HTML: Licensing Issues HTML
1.2 "Open-source GPLv3" license
The open-source license lets you share the source code of your plug-in/host ***including the VST3 SDK's sources which are put under the GPLv3***.

Note that VST2 sources are NOT part of the GPLv3!

For more information about GPLv3 check this link https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.en.html

It also gives you the ability to change and modify the VST3 SDK's sources as long as you share your changes and make them available for everyone (e.g. on an internet hosting service like GitHub).

2. Which files of the VST3 SDK are under which license?
all files describing the VST3 interface except VST2 files, located in folder "pluginterfaces" of the SDK, are under the dual-license described previously.
Each of these files includes this text:
//-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
// This file is part of a Steinberg SDK. It is subject to the license terms
// in the LICENSE file found in the top-level directory of this distribution
// and at http://www.steinberg.net/sdklicenses.
// No part of the SDK, including this file, may be copied, modified, propagated,
// or distributed except according to the terms contained in the LICENSE file.
//-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
for all other files of the VST3 SDK the respective embedded license text is applicable, for example:
  • all VSTGUI files are under a BSD style license
  • all Helper files (base and public.sdk folders) except VST2 files are under a BSD style license
  • all VST2 files (pluginterfaces and public.sdk folders) are under the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" License
3. Developer use cases
The following use cases support you to choose the right license.

3.1. I would like to share the source code of my VST 3 plug-in/host on GitHub or other such kind of platform.

You can choose the GPLv3 license and feel free to share your plug-ins/host's source code including the VST3 SDK's sources on GitHub.
You are allowed to provide a binary form of your VST 3 plug-ins/host too, as soon as you provide its source code as GPLv3 too.
Note that you have to follow the Steinberg VST usage guidelines provided in the SDK in doc/VST3_Usage_Guidelines.pdf


3.2. I would like to distribute my VST 3 plug-in/host as freeware/shareware in binary form only.

You can distribute your VST 3 plug-in/host in a binary form. This always requires you to choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.
Even though you distribute your VST 3 plug-in/host as freeware/shareware you need to fulfill the requirements of the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.


3.3. I would like to sell my VST 3 plug-in/host in binary form only.

If you work for-profit and distribute your plug-in/host in binary form, you need to choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.


3.4. I would like to adapt the VST 3 SDK's sources to my VST 3 plug-in/host's needs.

You can adapt and modify the VST3 SDK's source for your needs, but if you want to distribute these sources under GPLv3 you have to distribute your VST 3 plug-in/host's sources under GPLv3 too.
It is allowed to modify the VST3 SDK's when you distribute your VST 3 plug-in/host in binary form and choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.
If you are of the opinion that we should include your changes in the SDK, please contact us (use the sdk.steinberg.net).


3.5. I would like to reuse a distributed modified version of the VST3 SDK for my own VST 3 plug-ins/host.

Yes, but you have to make sure that your plug-in/host sources are under GPLv3 too!


3.6. I would like to distribute my VST 3 plug-in/host in binary form based on a modified version of VST3 SDK which is under GPLv3.

Yes, but you have to make sure that your plug-in/host sources are under GPLv3 too!
Note that you have to follow the Steinberg VST usage guidelines provided in the SDK in doc/VST3_Usage_Guidelines.pdf
If you do not want to be GPLv3, you have to build your plug-in/host based on the original or your eventually private modified version of the VST3 SDK and choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license (see 3.4).


3.7. I would like to sell my VST 3 plug-in/host in binary form which is based on a 3rd party SDK like JUCE.

If you work for-profit and distribute your plug-in/host in binary form, you need to choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.


3.8. I would like to distribute my VST 3 plug-in/host in binary form which is based on a 3rd party SDK like JUCE and used its GPLv3 license.

Yes, but you have to make sure that your VST 3 plug-in/host sources are under GPLv3 too!
Note that you have to follow the Steinberg VST usage guidelines provided in the SDK in doc/VST3_Usage_Guidelines.pdf

Your Steinberg Team

Re: VST 3 SDK Licensing FAQ

Posted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:47 pm
by tytel
Wow! This is unexpected and great :D

Big question though. Why didn't you also GPL the VST2 files?
I make an open source GPL3 synth (http://tytel.org/helm) and not being able to redistribute the VST2 files really makes the build process difficult.
There's also a slew of other logistical issues that come up because those (3?) files are still under the proprietary license.

Re: VST 3 SDK Licensing FAQ

Posted: Fri Mar 17, 2017 12:39 pm
by ygrabit
If you want to make your plugin fully open source you have to port it to VST3.

Posted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:28 am
by sandiego
Hi,

My company has developed a VST3 Plugin, which we intend to distribute in binary form. We are now ready to distribute our Plugin.
From what I understand, my company needs to use the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.
We printed and signed the agreement by hand, then re-scanned it and sent it to reception _at_ steinberg _dot_ de .
We sent it on 2017/07/24, however we do not heard an answer from Steinberg yet.
How long does it usually take to receive an answer from Steinberg?

Re: VST 3 SDK Licensing FAQ

Posted: Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:29 am
by Chuckk
Hello all!
There are still a few things here I find very unclear.
3.1. I would like to share the source code of my plug-in/host on GitHub.
You can choose the GPLv3 license and feel free to share your plug-ins/host's source code including the VST3 SDK's sources on GitHub.
Are you saying that a user of the proprietary license *may not* share the source code of their project? I would think anyone releasing VST plug-ins or hosts, for profit or not, would be allowed to share their source code if they wish.
3.2. I would like to distribute my plug-in/host as freeware.
You can distribute your plug-in/host in a binary form.This always requires you to choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.
Even though you distribute your plug-in/host as freeware you need to fulfill the requirements of the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.
Distributing a plug-in/host in a binary form requires the proprietary license?
Are you saying that a user of the GPLv3 license *may not* also distribute compiled binaries of the source they release? As I understand it, the actual GPLv3 allows anyone who gets hold of the software in any form to redistribute and modify it openly, without changing the license.
3.3. I would like to sell my plug-in/host in binary form.
If you work for-profit and distribute your plug-in/host in binary form, you need to choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.
The GPL itself actually does *not* prohibit selling one's software, including in binary form. It only states that the code must also be made available, BUT one *may charge a fee* for this, and AFAIK it isn't even required to be in download form. It could be made available only through fax, with a surcharge! Of course, once someone else obtains the program, they are free to distribute it for free as GPL as much as they want, but a developer who releases software as GPL is *NOT* required to make the binaries or source available at no cost.
3.4. I would like to sell my plug-in/host in binary form.
You can adapt and modify the VST3 SDK's source for your needs, but if you want to distribute these sources under GPLv3 you have to distribute your plug-in/host's sources under GPLv3 too.
It is allow to modify the VST3 SDK's when you distribute your plug-in/host in binary form and choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.
If you are of the opinion that we should include your changes in the SDK, please contact us (use the sdk.steinberg.net).
Again, the GPLv3 itself allows one to sell the software in binary form, or at least to sell the service of downloading it, provided the source is also offered (with or without charge).
3.6. I would like to distribute my plug-in/host in binary form based on a modified version of VST3 SDK which is under GPLv3.
Yes, but you have to make sure that your plug-in/host sources are under GPLv3 too!
At the top it says that "You can distribute your plug-in/host in a binary form.This always requires you to choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license." Here it says you can distribute it in binary form if the source is under GPLv3?

I suspect a miscommunication here, but I'm not entirely sure. I'm guessing that what was actually meant was:
1. If you want to release ONLY binaries of your plug-in/host (with or without charge) you must choose the proprietary license.
2. If you want to release the source and/or binary of your plug-in/host, but prohibit others from redistributing or modifying it, you must choose the proprietary license.
3. If you want to release the source code of your plug-in/host (with or without charge) you may choose either license.
4. If you want to release a binary of your plug-in/host (with or without charge) you may choose either license (just that GPLv3 requires you to also release the source, with or without charge).


This would mean that:
1. someone choosing GPL could distribute binaries along with the source code, or only the source code;
2. someone choosing proprietary could distribute or not distribute either binaries or source code.

Again, I suspect this is what was meant, but this is not what it says here in this FAQ. It actually says that you must choose GPL if you want to distribute source and you must choose proprietary if you want to distribute binaries; so no one could legally distribute both. ?? Is that what is meant?? Because I'm not sure the GPL would even allow this restriction...

I really want to understand this, at least moderately, before I devote the time to developing projects with VST3 SDK.

My own particular case right now is that I want to distribute both binaries and source code of a plug-in (and a host) under GPLv3. I'm concerned that, if I am not allowed to also distribute a binary, my target audience will not take the time to download my source, the VST3 SDK, and a compiler, and compile it on their own. It may seem ludicrous, but this is how it sounds from this post.

Thank you very much!
-Chuckk

Re: VST 3 SDK Licensing FAQ

Posted: Mon Mar 25, 2019 4:54 pm
by Arne Scheffler
You can of course distribute your GPLv3 licensed application as binary as long as you make the source code available as GPLv3. Then you don't need to sign the "Proprietary Steinberg VST3" license.

Cheers,
Arne