VST 3 SDK Licensing FAQ

Check the online VST3 documentation for questions about licensing:
VST 3 Licensing - VST 3 Developer Portal (steinbergmedia.github.io)

Your Steinberg Team

Wow! This is unexpected and great :smiley:

Big question though. Why didn’t you also GPL the VST2 files?
I make an open source GPL3 synth (Helm by Matt Tytel) 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.

If you want to make your plugin fully open source you have to port it to VST3.


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?

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:
  5. someone choosing GPL could distribute binaries along with the source code, or only the source code;
  6. 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!

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.


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The VST 3 Licensing Issues document in Steinberg Plug-in Interfaces Documentation says:

all VST 2 files (pluginterfaces and public.sdk folders) are under the “Proprietary Steinberg VST 2” License

But the first post of this thread says:

all VST2 files (pluginterfaces and public.sdk folders) are under the “Proprietary Steinberg VST3” License

I suppose that the latter is typo. Which is correct?

the correct one is:

  • all VST2 files (pluginterfaces and public.sdk folders) are under the “Proprietary Steinberg VST2” License

Thanks YVan. I understand.

If I wanted to port some of the VST3 SDK to another programming language (Rust, Python, Go, etc) and make the code public so that developers can use another language to create VST3 plugins, would they still have the option of using the Proprietary Steinberg VST3 License? And how should my own project be licensed?

i will check with our lawyer but a first answer is :

  • if you use the GPLv3 version of the VST3 you have to be GPLv3 too (Open source) and the plugins based on it too…
  • for closed source code for plugin dev, let me check with our lawyer…
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I’ve read the new VST 3 License Agreement version 2.1 of 30 March 2021 and am very worried about clause 9.7:

“Any and all prior VST 2 and/or VST 3 Plug-In SDK Agreements between Steinberg and the Licensee
shall be automatically terminated by signing this Agreement.”

Does that mean that if i want to add VST 3 support to my DAW MuLab that i have to kill support for VST 2 plugins?
That would be extremely bad. MuLab already exists for more than 10 years and many users have many projects with (legacy) VST 2 plugins that don’t exist in VST 3 format.
So killing support for VST 2 plugins would hurt these users very badly!

So how can i add VST 3 support to MuLab while still taking into account the users with projects that use legacy VST 2 plugins?

Kind regards,

Jo Langie - MuTools

We will change the formulation in order to make it clearer.
This §9.7 does not apply to Host which already supports VST2, in this case your last signed VST2 license agreement is still valid.
For plugins developer we will add a transition period.

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Thanks Yvan!
Do you have a time estimation when that updated VST 3 license agreement will be available?

i hope next week…


What about backward compatibility for plug-in developers? Does the new license agreement imply that plug-in developers have to stop distributing legacy versions of their plug-ins if the downloads contain builds using the VST2 SDK? I think it would be important to clarify whether or not the right to distribute existing VST2 plug-ins is touched by this agreement and whether or not it concerns only products that are being created after signing this agreement.

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Here we go, we have updated the license by changing the §9.7: the part concerning VST2 is removed.

The new version is available here:
What are the licensing options for VST 3? - VST - Steinberg Developer Help

The next VST SDK update will include it.

Thanks Yvan & co.
This indeed solves the issue.

I need some wisdom here regarding the Open Source licensing option.

Recently I have been in touch with the Fedora Linux developer community, and an issue was raised about redistribution.

It was brought to my attention that the Usage Guidelines adds some additional requirements, that applies to either license option.

I was directed to this Discussion regarding apparent problems.
According to the discussion, the added restrictions of SDK make the software non-free rather than GPLv3, and not adequate for distribution standards.

Can one maybe confirm if the assumptions here are correct?
Thank you.