Using "Bona-Fida" reversed engineered Headers to distribute vst2 "like" plugins


Dear fellow devs,

i just started out developing audio plugins and planning on starting a business with that.

Since a few days i am sleeping bad because i found out that distributing VST2 PlugIns will be illegal for me as i didn’t sign a license agreement with Steinberg before October 2018.

This would be a major drawback for any new business trying to sell audio plugins, since one of the most used DAW (and my beloved favourite) didn’t support VST2 until recently in their current major version.

But i have the feeling a lot of artists will use Ableton 9 at least for another year or two, or even beyond.

After spending the last days digging every thread in the usual forums, i have found this:

Is it legal to distribute stuff compiled with this header?

best regards

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You should really ask your lawyer but my interpretation (I am not a lawyer) is that it doesn’t matter what source code/headers you use to build the plugins. It’s the act of publicly distributing VST2 compatible plugins or hosts that is not allowed if you don’t have the VST2 license signed by Steinberg.



I just received an answer from Steinberg (disussing with them the last few days, too :slight_smile: ).

They say, using that Headers and distributing is fine.

What might be the problem is the VeSTIge headers are released under GPL2, which would mean u have to open-source your whole application (at least on request).

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That is a really surprising answer from them! If I was you, I would double check that the person I’ve been communicating with has completely understood the situation.



I’m also surprised by this. But then I noticed that the header file is now called vestige.h, and no longer aeffectx.h. All the Steinberg DCMA requests I’ve read about related specifically to the removal of aeffectx.h from source trees. Could the renaming of this header have something to do with Steinberg’s (apparent) lack of interest?



How the plugin is built, using the official headers or reversed engineered ones (including the JUCE ones), is one thing, and Steinberg cannot do much about it.

But distributing VST2 plugins was and is still bound to having signed an agreement with Steinberg. Without that agreement, however you build your plugins, you cannot distribute them.



VeSTige was a first attempt to reverse engineer VST, meanwhile there’s a follow-up project:

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It’s also GPL licensed, unfortunately.



I assume they can’t do anything about it since the headers are GPL.

They have a real good description of all the steps they did for creating that header.

One might be able to create the header on his or her own and release it under any license… :slight_smile:



The headers may be GPL but “VST” is trademarked.



So … can you distribute then as long as you don’t call it VST? Can you call it “VST compatible”?



From the VST2 license agreement:

The Licensee has no permission to sell, licence, give-away and/or distribute the VST 2 Plug-In Interface technology or parts of it in anyway, on any medium, including the Internet, to any other person, including sub-licensors of the Licensee or companies where the Licensee has any involvement. This includes re-working this specification, or reverse-engineering any products based upon this specification.

It explicitly states that you cannot re-work or reverse engineer the spec.



That’s the cool thing about at least the vestige header.

When I got it right, the guy who wrote those never signed a license agreement with Steinberg and didn’t download the SDK in any way. That means also, it isn’t based upon their specification I guess.

Now we can use his work in good faith that this is true and it is completely independent work as far as I understand.

Edit: But i will consult a lawyer about this for sure and keep this thread up-to-date



I did so and here is the response:

No. As far as I know there are no consequences. But I will also forward your inquiry to the marketing department so they can have a look into the situation as well.

I or them will get in touch with you, soon.



Interesting, why they ask the marketing department for legal advice… :wink:

They might as well lift the ban and just allow usage of their own SDK requesting a notification, that it is deprecated technology. They achieved their main objective to push the last competition towards supporting VST3 (almost)



Shit happens when you let those guys decide :smile:

I don’t think so, that’s what i originally asked them. But maybe if they realize that there is a way around… who knows.

The only thing we need now, is a BSD or MIT licensed version of the good faith headers.



As far as I understand, the license agreement was not for using Steinberg’s SDK, but for developing software using “VST technology”.

So even if you use a third party SDK, you’d still need the license agreement to publish your plugin.

So I’m also very surprised about this new, alleged statement.

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JUCE had its own, completely bespoke, built-in version of the VST SDK. We had to remove that as part of Steinberg’s push towards VST3.

I don’t see how vestige is significantly different. The “spec” is just a callback function and a list of integers. Working out yourself what integers correspond to what opcodes is almost the definition of reverse engineering. It’s very hard to see how it could be a “good faith” independent work without doing something like this.

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They reply really fast i must say! The message is not so good… at least for everyone without a license agreement:

I’m really sorry for all this inconvenience but the manager of the development department just replied to me and this is his message:

"If a developer does not have a signed VST2 license agreement with Steinberg, he is not allowed to distribute a VST2 plugin (as source code or/and as binary or/and as freeware or/and as shareware or/and for money). Since October 1th 2018 We, at Steinberg, does not signed VST2 licensing agreement anymore.

Any kind of Re-engineering of our VST2 API is not legal (FST, VeSTige,…), this was precisely described in the VST2 SDK.

So using such kind of Re-engineering SDK is NOT legal."

I’m sorry for the confusion, but these licensing and legal questions about the VST2 SDK are not exactly my specialization.

I’m afraid there is nothing further I can do for. I also asked the marketing manager if we could provide a VST2 SDK based on goodwill but he was very strict about that.

Thank you for understanding.

Seems like the only way for new devs is to find a distributor, right?