VST 3 SDK  VST 3.6.14
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VST 3 Licensing Issues

This developer use case guide will help you to decide which VST 3 licensing model to choose.

The VST 3 SDK has new Usage Guidelines to follow for all licensing models, please read them carefully!

Steinberg VST usage guidelines

Whenever VST is used or the SDK has been used to create a product or the SDK is included (Open-source GPLv3 case) it is required to add the reference to Steinberg by using the VST compatible logo as supplied by Steinberg. The VST compatible logo could be found in the folder VST_SDK/VST3_SDK/doc/artwork.

This logo exists under different forms: with and without the trademark text, black on white and white on black, if you choose the logo without the trademark text you have to write somewhere this attribution: "VST is a trademark of Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH, registered in Europe and other countries.".

VST_Compatible_Logo_Steinberg.png
VST_Compatible_Logo_Steinberg_negative.png
VST_Compatible_Logo_Steinberg_with_TM.png
VST_Compatible_Logo_Steinberg_with_TM_negative.png



Read the following pdf for more information:

What are the licensing options for VST 3?

You can choose between the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" or the "Open-source GPLv3" license (dual-license) depending on how you like to distribute your VST 3 plug-in/host. This license can be found at www.steinberg.net/sdklicenses.

"Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" license

The "Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" license allows you to distribute your VST 3 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 VST 3 plug-in/host (Steinberg will send you back the License agreement included in the SDK that you signed and sent to us).
  • You need to mention ***Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH*** in the about box and/or documentation of your VST 3 plug-in/host and follow the Steinberg VST usage guidelines.

For more detail please read the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" 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 (recep.nosp@m.tion.nosp@m.@stei.nosp@m.nber.nosp@m.g.de) or per fax (+49 (0)40 210 35-300). We will sign it and send it back to you.

"Open-source GPLv3" license

The open-source license lets you share the source code of your VST 3 plug-in/host ***including the VST 3 SDK's sources which are put under the GPLv3***.

Note that VST 2 sources are NOT part of the GPLv3!

For more information about GPLv3 check this link. It also gives you the ability to change and modify the VST 3 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). Note that you have to follow the Steinberg VST usage guidelines.

Which files of the VST 3 SDK are under which license?

  • all files describing the VST 3 interface except VST 2 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 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 VST 3 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 VST 2 files are under a BSD style license
    • all VST 2 files (pluginterfaces and public.sdk folders) are under the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 2" License
    • all mda-vst3 examples (public.sdk/samples/mda-vst3 folder) are under a BSD style license: Copyright (c) 2008 Paul Kellett

Whats about VST 2?

The "Proprietary Steinberg VST 2" license, which is the VST 2 License agreement, allows you to distribute your VST 2 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 VST 2 plug-in/host (Steinberg will send you back the License agreement included in the SDK that you signed and sent to us).
  • You need to mention ***Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH*** in the about box and/or documentation of your VST 2 plug-in/host and follow the Steinberg VST usage guidelines.
  • Note that the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" does not include the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 2", you have to sign it separately! It was available in the VST 2 SDK and in the VST 3 SDK old version.
  • Note that from the first of October 2018 Steinberg does not accept anymore submissions of license agreement for VST 2 Plug-in/host! => If you do not have a license agreement signed with Steinberg before the october 2018 it means that you are not allowed to distribute VST2 Plug-ins anymore.

Developer use cases

The following use cases support you to choose the right license.

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 or referencing the VST 3 SDK's sources on GitHub.
  • You are allowed to provide a binary form of your 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.

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 VST 3" license.
  • Even though you distribute your VST 3 plug-in/host as freeware/shareware you need to fulfill the requirements of the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" license.

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

  • If you work for-profit and distribute your VST 3 plug-in/host in binary form, you need to choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" license.

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 VST 3 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 VST 3 SDK's when you distribute your VST 3 plug-in/host in binary form and choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" license.
  • If you are of the opinion that we should include your changes in the SDK, please contact us (use the sdk.steinberg.net).


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

  • Yes, but you have to make sure that your VST 3 plug-in/host sources are under GPLv3 too!

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

  • 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.
  • If you do not want to be GPLv3, you have to build your VST 3 plug-in/host based on the original or your eventually private modified version of the VST 3 SDK and choose the "Proprietary Steinberg VST 3" license.

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.
  • Note that you have to follow the Steinberg VST usage guidelines.

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.

I would like to share the source code of my VST 2 plug-in/host on GitHub or other web-based exchange platform.

  • It is allowed but be sure that you do NOT include the Steinberg VST 2 files: like aeffect.h and aeffectx.h. These files are under a different license which does not allow to redistribute them!
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Copyright ©2019 Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH. All Rights Reserved. This documentation is under this license.