Move to online licensing


Recently I’ve moved to a laptop rather than a desktop as my (3D/Graphics) work requires me to work from multiple locations and one of my main issues is finding enough USB ports to accommodate all of the various dongles I have for music software licences, external hard drives, etc.

All of the software I use for my 3D day job has moved to online licencing. From Autodesk, to adobe, to the rendering software I use, VRay (which you can still use a dongle with if that’s your preference). It makes life so much easier and would really stop a lot of USB headaches that I’m currently having! Even ilok have made some attempts to move to cloud licencing, albeit some of my plugins still aren’t available on cloud licence.

Please could you provide an online licencing service for those of us that wish to use it?

Kind regards,

Yes please, online licensing service or any methods to remove the use of dongles would be great. I understand the need to prevent piracy, but that’s just giving more headache to users who need to travel around for work. Spoiling/losing/not bringing a dongle means we can’t even use Cubase pro. At least let the pro users have access to Elements for free or a further discounted price (especially since they’ve already bought the most expensive and comprehensive version of Cubase). So many developers are moving to a cloud-based license and being dongle-free.

Agree, some way to make it a little easier on multiple devices most appreciated.

Personally, I don’t like online licensing. The internet can go down at any time and having my professional studio stop running because the internet is down just seems ridiculous. As a backup or secondary licensing option though, that makes more sense to me.

This is largely worked out by others by way of “checking out” licences for offline use if you know you’re going to be offline.

It wouldn’t affect your licence if your internet was out for a couple of hours, or even days (again, looking at adobe I can still use photoshop etc as long as it has been signed in to within the last month. By and large people these days are connected to the internet the majority of the time, and those that aren’t I would wager connect at least once a month or have the dongle as a fallback option.

Yes, this functionality is available, controllable and easily doable. I do it all the time in my day job. The licensing server in conjunction with the client software application and key on the client will have a setting of how long it will allow the software to run without checking in.


The challenges for Steinberg/Yamaha are going to be - how to sanely implement it. They probably don’t deal with large organizations and sell 100,000 licenses of 100 different software products that much (maybe education?). The way Adobe implemented it is impressive, but I assume they are much bigger and more tech savvy than Yamaha and have more resources to throw at it.

Challenges for Steinberg users. Many of us work in stand alone isolated studio spaces. The donge’s don’t move. Whats the point? There is also some talk about some customers who work in film post that they now have to work in more secure internet disconnected environments. Online activation it still doable but is going to become a regular monthly or weekly tech support issue. (Someone is going to have to manually get a file from a site, and a key maybe, save it to USB, go to each station that runs Steinberg products, insert USB key, run a bunch of commands or click a software icon and follow steps on screen – all depends how it gets implemented. It would be a major pain in the ass to do that every week. annoying every month. doable every year, but then whats the point of the new licensing if it just talks to licnese server once a year???)

I like the idea of being able to use lower level Cubase products if you already own Pro for mobile audio workstation warriors. Seems like a very easy to implement and cheap solution – might do wonders for Steinberg PR – no more complaints from mobile users about damaged or lost dongles.

I don’t doubt that they are much bigger, and have a greater amount of resources to throw at it; but once the platform is built I don’t see why it would cause them any more hassle than say building a new VST plugin? I’d wager the time saved in helping people log on to a platform is far greater than trying to recover licenses on lost/broken dongles.

The idea isn’t to remove peoples dongles should they want permanent offline use, it is to provide an online licencing platform to supplement those that don’t want to use dongles. Personally I think the Adobe/Autodesk way is the way to go; you have an application that you log into that shows all your available products (ie products that you own a licence for) and allows you to install them via this app - then, once every x amount of time (say 30 days) it requires you to log in to verify the licence. It could also (as per the apps mentioned) allow you to install on multiple machines but only use it on the machine that is logged on to.

The rendering software I use allows users to use either online licencing or a dongle (image attached)

I like the idea of being able to use lower level Cubase products if you already own Pro for mobile audio workstation warriors. Seems like a very easy to implement and cheap solution – might do wonders for Steinberg PR – no more complaints from mobile users about damaged or lost dongles.

I’d personally want to use pro version when on the move. I don’t see a reason users should be penalised for wanting to free up USB ports and not lose expensive licences because of damage/lost dongles?

This is why I don’t think they should go 100% online only. They can still use the dongle system while implementing an additional online system.

The biggest issue with the dongle is. Is much easier for a client to steal without being detected. The laptop or computer I can chain down with a Kensington Lock but the dongle I have no way of locking it down to the desk. They are super small and it’s very easy for a client to steal them. I hear stories about stolen dongles all the time. Then online might be better right?

Then on the other side of things, most DJ/Producers travel and airport WiFi and public wifi is not safe. Even I’ve had my credit card info stolen over the airport WiFi before. I have a firewall blocking everything when on public wifi. If licensing is done over the internet and has to be done on a regular basis to keep working and that connection is public, eventually someone will work out how to intercept that information and steal it. A travelling DJ/Producer has less time to find a café with WiFi and works all crazy time zones and mobile hotspots either don’t work on roaming or are extremely expensive.

Those that freelance are often going to be working in studios that don’t have WiFi access for visitors. Most the studios here in LA aren’t giving out WiFi passwords to those hiring a room for a day.

I actually think they should just go with a simple serial number even though piracy will increase. Every other major DAW in the world has been pirated within the last couple of years or less so if a kid is going to learn music production or beat-making, they are most likely going to start learning on a different DAW that they pirated online. Eventually those people will become professionals and lots will end up buying whatever DAW they learnt on. Convincing them to jump over to Cubase is extremely difficult if not impossible in many cases once they are a Pro at another DAW. I see people on YouTube comparing the last cracked version of Cubase, version 5 to the latest version of other DAWs and complaining that Cubase seems old and outdated. They don’t even realize they are testing a version from over 10 years ago as it still gets shared. Then they decide they don’t like it.

Most YouTube tutorial videos are taught by some kid with a cracked version of a DAW and other people are watching them thinking, I need this particular DAW. I rarely see Cubase in tutorial videos at all which is crazy because it’s actually better than most DAWs in most areas. Based on Google trends data, Cubase was at it’s highest popularity during the time it was being pirated and now gets searched for way less. Ableton is the most search DAW now based on Google trends DATA. It’s probably also the most pirated since it has practically no copy protection, followed by Logic which also has no copy protection other than need MacOS. If you were able to compare the international sales data for Ableton with Cubase and then if Cubase comes out lower even though Ableton lacks so many functions of Cubase, then the only logical conclusion would be lack of exposure on planforms like YouTube and that lack of exposure is just because Ableton is cracked of recent and Cubase isn’t.

Steinberg really should have abandoned the dongle once it was shown that it can be cracked given enough time. Now they might feel that it’s too late but what they really need to do is abandon it at the exact same time as getting some celebrity endorsements from famous music producers and DJs doing videos of it on YouTube. This might not be so easy though as those people started learning pirated versions of other DAWs and most don’t use Cubase. But assuming they could get the endorsements and scrap the dongle, then all the kiddies can get their pirated version and make videos on YouTube. The unfortunate reality is that most professionals like myself work 8-16 hours or more per day in the studio and don’t have time to be making YouTube videos for free. That is the real marketing problem for Steinberg. The free marketing of pirates posting YouTube, Facebook and Instagram videos that they are missing out on. The internet has changed. Marketing has changed. This concern for such high anti-piracy might not be the best move anymore. I think the whole concept needs to be heavily investigated to see if future loss or profit is likely to come out of moving to a easy to crack system like a serial number. I know they think that it will be worse and cause them to loose money but over a 5-10 year period, I’m not so sure. Just look at the rapid growth of Studio One. They don’t have a dongle.

great post

Very good points. I don’t want to hijack my own thread and go off on a tangent here because ultimately it’s about ease of use and me being able to go dongle-less… But…

Working in 3D/CGI field, we and many others have started porting lots of our stuff over to Unreal Engine (the computer game engine) because it was made absolutely free to everyone; obviously studios will pay for it when they release things made on Unreal - but by doing this they have completely saturated the market with people that are learning/using their product. I’m not suggesting that Steinberg make Cubase free, but these kinds of approaches do work.

They also have that monthly deal with splice - i think that’s such a great way of getting new/younger users onboard and legit who it suits financially. Cubase have no flexibility in regards to those kind of offers, in fact you can’t even demo Pro without a dongle - and that’s just super stoneage. Variaudio is a huge part of the software, and you have to buy a product to demo it for 30 days. I can see why new users would flock to Studio One (as an example).

If Steinberg ever went online licensing i think they would adopt a monthly subscription model with it to pay dividends, my fear is if they would make that the only option. Depending on the price and number of machines that it covers i don’t know if that would be a good thing or not for myself - but i would love to be able to use on my laptop on the move without having to unplug the dongle from my studio PC before i leave ‘just incase’.

Do steinberg read these forums?

That would be very much appreciated.

Lately, I have made a few clients unhappy in the past because I couldn’t use Cubase or Dorico while I was on the move in between sessions or on tour (I don’t carry my dongle with me at all times). Loads of times jobs come to me quickly and with a fast turnout; as a touring musician I’m often far and away from my workstation at home so if my dongle is not with me, I have to just refuse.
I would rather stick with Steinberg’s products but my stayig with the brand depends on how quickly they will offer a cloud based authorisation system, like ILok for example. So if you want to use the dongle you can and if you want to login online you can too
Everyone happy!

If you’re using a desktop/tower (ie non-laptop) machine, then consider mounting your dongle inside the case - you can plug a short usb cable into a motherboard header and then just use a ziptie or sticky pad to attach the dongle to the inside of the case.

This would obviously be tricky for anyone using a trashcan mac, but for most other machines, it’s pretty easily doable.

I’d definitely go for the online option - so long as it wasn’t an always-online requirement: As long as it was something like many other companies do, where their server has to see your machine once every couple of weeks or so, I think that would work pretty well for a lot of us.

could even use CodeMeter like Reason

That is a good tip. Unfortunately, I’m using a gaming laptop these days as I moved from Australia to the US and took it with me. It’s more practical to have a portable studio computer, especially if I’m working as a freelance engineer/producer rather than only out of my own studio. It’s pretty cool. It has 6tb of storage in it and 32gig of ram.

Ah yeah, the laptop def makes more sense if you’re freelancing around - that machine sounds like a beast! Is it a Razer?

Until we get a dongle-less option, someone really needs to invent a good way of making them trickier to steal from laptops. I mean, we could all just superglue them into the port, but that’s probably a less flexible option than most people would be up for :smiley:

Also, you may already do this already, but when I’m using my MBP I connect my dongle via a short (like 3") usb extension cable - that way if someone walks past and bangs into my machine in a way that could snap the dongle off in the port, it’s the cheap little cable that takes the hit.