I am putting together some code that will use the Steinbergs VST3 specification and it has occurred to me that it would make a nice open source project. Most that exist are a bit old and are based on VST2 and have dependencies on Steinbergs SDK - which is not open source. Steinberg are not onerous in their requirements by the way - but they do control IP as perhaps they should.

What I would like to know is whether a binary compatible interface to a propriety spec is proprietary. VST3 in particular but am interested in general.

More explicitly: If I write some code using none of the Steinberg SDK other than function names and parameters is it legal to then publish this as an open source project.

As a more general example: If Fred Nurk Corp defines an interface standard

class IFredNurkInterface
     virtual result GetSystemInfo(Parameter x)=0;
     virtual result SetSystemInfo(Parameter x)=0;

and then I write a concrete implementation of the standard without even deriving from IFredNurkInterface

class MyReinventTheWheelClass
     virtual result GetSystemInfo(Parameter x){
        //get something based on x
        return something
     virtual result SetSystemInfo(Parameter x){
         //do something with x
         return something

Would I be able to publish MyReinventTheWheelClass as lets say a MIT compatible project? - assuming of course I am complying with all the branding requirements and not misrepresenting myself or my affiliation with Fred Nurk Corp etc


What I would like to know is whether a binary compatible interface to a propriety spec is proprietary?

This is a topic that is under consideration by US courts at the moment... So there is no easy answer. In the Oracle vs. Google case, US Federal judges stated that APIs are copyrightable. So it would mean that you would require an explicit license to create/use the binary API. But this is being tried again since yesterday to determine if fair use applies. See Jury is picked for $9 billion Oracle v. Google showdown on Ars Technica and A legal battle about the Klingon language could affect the future of computer programming on Quartz for some related pointers and discussions.

If I were you, I would ask for an explicit permission.

| improve this answer | |
  • This may depend on jurisdiction. The European Union has judged in favor of Google. Steinberg was a german company, it is now sold to Yamaha. – user877329 Jun 5 '16 at 15:06

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