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The outs of the Vienna Key [are they written anywhere?]
Last post Sun, Aug 27 2023 by Cyril Blanc, 278 replies.
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Posted on Wed, Jun 02 2010 15:08
by cesare.italy
Joined on Thu, Feb 27 2003, Posts 89

As it has happened to other people on this forum before, I've lost my Vienna Key. After contacting the support center I was informed by the sales manager that:

"The license is stored on your key, and by loosing the key, you also lost the license to use the product."

So the results is: you cannot keep using the licenses you've bought cause licenses and keys are in a one-to-one relationship and the only solution is to get new licenses. Does not matter whether you are willing to provide an official police statement declaring that you have indeed lost the key (with penal consequences if you claim the false): you have to get new licenses. You can get new licenses for half price though, which is a bargain (for them).

I've asked the Vienna support and CEO where in the License Agreement or in the documentation do they mention this key/licenses identity and I've received no answer to it, because, actually, it is not written anywhere: in the license agreement you'll only read that you have purchased the license to use the software.

I thus wonder why customers (paying costumer!) should be so penalized by a copy protection system that is built for the sole benefit of the company. I just want to list some disadvantages that come with the key:

  • any time you want to run the software on your laptop you have to remember to bring the key with you;

  • the key makes one of your USB ports unusable (and I, like many mac users, have only 2 USB ports on my laptop);

  • the Syncrosoft system makes code much slower: essentially encrypted code is converted into machine code using thousands and thousands of CPU computations for the decoding. It has been speculated that some of speed bumps reported by programs using the Syncrosoft system (like Cubase, Nuendo or Vienna itself) were often just consequences of Syncrosoft improving a poorly written copy-protection code.

  • the key itself does not prevent several users from using the software. For example, I use the key a few hour per week, the rest of the time I could be lending it around to friends who might share my music passion and the protection system wouldn't complain a bit. However, one of the reasons why Vienna refuses to reactivate your licenses, when you lose your key, is that now a random person who might have found the key on the train or on the street where you lost it, who has no idea what it is for and who, very likely, does not posses the installation files, might be using it.

  • there is no way to back up your licenses (I had indeed bought a second key hoping I could keep a safe copy at home, it was not possible).

  • there is no way to deactivate your licenses: once they are on a key they have to stay on a key (you can move them through keys although one license can only be on one key at a time)

  • if you loose the key you loose your investment!

  • if the key gets stolen you loose your investment!

  • If the key is broken or defective you may end up paying a fee in order to get your licenses restored on a new key (that you have to buy).

The funny thing about it is that the Syncrosoft system has been long cracked and thus paying costumers, as always, are really the only ones dealing with the inconveniences. What do you think? I'll try to keep looking for a solution and let you know.

All the best,


Tags: Vienna key
Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 07:59
by mpower88
Joined on Thu, Aug 12 2004, Posts 729

I agree with most of that... My key is broken right now - although the syncrosoft installer can see all my licenses, anytime I try to launch any VSL software, either in the host or standalone, it cannot read the device, asks for a new usb port, then when it finally works, I only have one license: the soprano sax... everything else is gone (I have pretty much the full collection)... I'm trying to see if I can license the second key I have so I can get back to work!

XI Machines 2687W, 64Gb Ram, Win 10
Angelbird SSD's..VEPro 7/MIR, Cubase 11 Pro
Almost the Full Vienna Collection.
SSL 2 Interface. Adam Audio S3A monitors
One half of Seraphonica.
Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 08:39
by cesare.italy
Joined on Thu, Feb 27 2003, Posts 89

Yes this key system is really painfully unfair to costumers. Essentially we are treated as potential copy thieves rather than honest paying costumers. I've contacted VSL several time (I must say that they were always very gentle and responsive despite the poorness of their copy protection system :-) and I thank them for that) and I've asked whether solutions such as

- deactivating the licenses each time you are done using VSL;

- protecting the key with a password

were possible. None of these solutions is possible: There is really nothing you can do to protect your purchase. As I've said before, the whole burden of the copy protection (both price and defects) is on the paying costumers.

I've found a wikipedia page on a similar topic although it refers to the iLok key, however the problems are the same:


I've never payed particular attention to the copy protection systems used in a software I was interested in buying, however, I'll definitely do it from now on avoiding any key/dongle system carefully.

I mainly used VSL SE on my laptop on the train. Essentially I'm not doing it anymore for the fear of loosing my key again, or even just damaging it. Two days ago I got GPO cause there is no dongle and I hope it will serve my porpuses (and I also have one more USB port free :-)). I'll let you know how it went.

I really hope you can solve your key problems without having to spend a lot of money.



Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 09:50
by mpower88
Joined on Thu, Aug 12 2004, Posts 729

Mine was clearly broken, I've had a couple of missing licenses for a while, I did without them, but now all of them were gone except soprano, but in the elicense controller I was still able to see them, so thankfully I had a spare key which I never used, and was still able to transfer all the licenses to the new key, and presto everything works again !! hooray!!! (happy ending).

Moral of the story - keep a spare key with you!

XI Machines 2687W, 64Gb Ram, Win 10
Angelbird SSD's..VEPro 7/MIR, Cubase 11 Pro
Almost the Full Vienna Collection.
SSL 2 Interface. Adam Audio S3A monitors
One half of Seraphonica.
Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 12:11
by Pekay
Joined on Sun, Apr 26 2009, Stockholm, Posts 81
This sounds like an important issue. What do I have to do to create a spare key that works?
Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 12:17
by RainerL
Joined on Wed, Jul 13 2005, Germany, Posts 79

Bad to hear that´s no solution for a customer but buying new licenses when the key is stolen.

These dongles for us are the same as the jewelry for women. But on the other hand - we indeed had a burglary and the burglars took some things which could be worth to sell.... but not the USB-keys.  puuuuuh.... a blessing in disguise. How much worth is a license stored on a stolen computer?

In these days i set up the new computer. UAD and VSL is no problem.  On another computer i also make a new setup. But beginning with the not working function for license transferring to adobe and so on it takes so much time and work - I would be glad if all software licenses would only be stored on a dongle!

But maybe Syncrosoft can think about a system in which the dongles can be disabled. Like credit cards.  For the benefit of the legal customers I would agree to a solution like this: All dongles are registered. The registered dongle hast to be checked online each - for instance - 3 months. If it is anounced (registered) as lost or stolen, the licenses stored on the registered dongle can be used no longer. If the online check is not made, after 3 months the key can´t be used longer, too.

Therefor each user whose key is stolen or lost can report this to syncrosoft and then download the existing licenses on a new key. Without paying twice.

To prevent misusage there can be a further limit that maximal 3 times a key can be reported as lost.

Any reasons against this suggestion?

Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 12:33
by cesare.italy
Joined on Thu, Feb 27 2003, Posts 89

To RainerL:

I do absolutely agree with you! The problem is the absolute impossibility of protecting your licenses in any way. Once the licenses are on a key then the user must keep the licenses on a key, can't backup them, can't deactivate them...nothing!. Having to check the key each x-days would be a perfect solution but none of these dongle companies seem to even consider the idea. I really do not understand why...

One more thing: rather than comparing the licenses to jewelry, I'd compare them to the keys of a rented apartment. Imagine you rent an apartment: the apartment is not yours but you are licensed to use it. However, nobody would expect to completely lose the use of the apartment if the keys are lost.

To Pekay:

You can move the licenses between Vienna keys. However one license can only be stored on one key at the time. I had also bought a second key hoping to be able to do a backup just to find out that that was not possible.

Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 15:56
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582

Something that I've considered doing is insuring my software.  I guess you would have to decide just how important the software is to you and decide how much you're willing to insure what you have.  For example, If I just owned the SE I probably wouldn't bother with insurance because 1/2 the cost of the SE wouldn't set me back that much.  However, if I owned the Cube or owned about $4,000+ worth of software then I would definately consider insurance.

Another issue is who insures software and at what rates.  There are companies out there that will insure your wares but be careful because there are scammers out there too.  

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 16:17
by jeremyroberts
Joined on Thu, Apr 17 2003, New York, NY USA, Posts 282

Waves TLC is a solution:


Else, you MUST have full replacement value insurance for everything on your dongles. It is more than a "key" -- it is the proof of ownership. Don't lose it.

I use Waves TLC since it is 1) free, and 2) I have nothing to lose -- this TLC plan only benefits me. It is a fair solution from Waves for my substantial investment in their software. If my Waves iLok were to run away, I would simply report the iLok stolen, and i would be working again soon. The "thief" would have up to 90 days of stolen auths, then surprise -- and I would imagine a "tech support" call to Waves would bring the Police.

Copy protection by its nature is imperfect -- but a very necessary evil. BUT the eLicensor needs a function similar to Waves TLC if it wants to play with the big boys.

About TLC

Waves TLC Theft & Lost Coverage is our exclusive program which safeguards your Waves licenses in case your iLok gets lost or stolen.

How does it work?

  • Your permanent Waves license will be removed from your iLok. It will be replaced by a time-limited TLC license.
  • Every 3 months, Waves will deposit a time-limited (90-day) license in your iLok.com account. To eliminate any possible downtime, there will be an overlapping period of 7 days between licenses.
  • You will need to download this license to your iLok every 3 months.
  • In case your iLok is lost or stolen, log into your Waves account and choose the “Claim TLC” option.
  • Waves will deposit a new time-limited license into your iLok.com account. This license will be valid until the date of your next scheduled 90-day license.
  • Download this new license to a new (or other) iLok key, and you’ll be up and running.
  • To learn more about Waves TLC, click here.


What else do I need to know?

  • TLC is available at no additional cost for V6 and V7 bundles with a minimum of 6 months of Waves Update Plan coverage remaining. (TLC is not available for single plug-ins.)
  • Your bundle is eligible for TLC coverage as long as your Waves Update Plan is current, for up to one year.
  • Upon expiration of your TLC coverage, Waves will provide a permanent license. You will then have the option to renew TLC.
  • TLC offers up to 2 claims per product per year. After your second claim, Waves will provide a permanent license, and TLC coverage for the current year will expire.
  • TLC may be cancelled at any time. If you cancel TLC, Waves will provide a permanent license for your product.
  • In case of TLC cancellation or 2 claims, you may renew TLC for that product only after the original TLC period has expired.
  • TLC coverage begins only after you have downloaded the first TLC License to your iLok key.
  • You must download your first license within 3 months of enrolling for TLC. If you do not, you must re-enroll for TLC.
  • When you update or upgrade TLC products, your TLC automatically expires. You must renew TLC to resume coverage. To renew TLC coverage, the updated product version must have a minimum of 6 months of Waves Update Plan coverage remaining.

Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 16:25
by cesare.italy
Joined on Thu, Feb 27 2003, Posts 89

I know about the insurances. But I mean, are we at the point where we need to insure licenses that we legally bought because of the copy protection system? Essentially, we would not be insuring the computer or, I don't know, the DVDs, but the copy protection dongle??? This honestly sounds a bit excessive to me...

Apart from the cost of it, dealing with insurance refunds is really never fun: loads of bureaucracy and the refunds are never really "guaranteed" despite what they might be claiming on their websites.

But again, I mean, we are speaking about software!! legally purchased software and the number of problems that costumers are asked to go through because of "copy protection"? Again, I don't mean to say that VSL shouldn't apply a copy protection system to protect their interests but the whole burden of it cannot be only on the paying costumers...

Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 19:35
by civilization 3
Joined on Sat, May 16 2009, SF Bay Area, Posts 1953

The question in the OP,  "are they written anywhere", ought to be answered.

My dongle with most of my VSL licenses, finally broke into two pieces. This was my old Cubase SX2 dongle also. I had failed to ever register it with steinberg; but steinberg support was somehow able to fetch that number for me (the same afternoon as my email request); I sent the broken one to VSL support, and all was sorted in a short amount of time. I'm sure it is a matter of record here, that number, where you have registered your license.

Apple M1 - Mac OS 14
Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 20:13
by jeremyroberts
Joined on Thu, Apr 17 2003, New York, NY USA, Posts 282

Gianna wrote:

My dongle with most of my VSL licenses, finally broke into two pieces. 

Ah, but you had physical possession of the dongle, so my expectation would be total replacement of the licenses, for a damaged license holder. And it appears that VSL honored that, as one would expect.

Just today, I discovered that a very crucial (to me) disk maintenance utility CD was defective, and the media could not be used. The company replaced the media for free, even though it is more than 3 years old. They asked for the defective CD to be returned.  HOWEVER, would I have expected the company to provide a new copy if I had "lost" the CD? (the software will only work from CD/DVD) That's the issue here...

A damaged dongle MUST be replaced, and all licenses restored without any hesitation by the licensor. Any other result would be immoral. But do I expect a software publisher to give me new licenses for lost or stolen? Can't expect that. I think it STINKS that our world sees little value in protecting the value of IP creators. 

Many (most) of us using music software products are music and IP creators. We more than anyone should understand why our tools need to be protected from non-owners, and we (the music creators) should be the most vocal in supporting and protecting the tool makers. Unfortunately, historically, we (music creators) have been the biggest thieves of IP, and the tool makers do anything and everything possible to try to protect themselves.

I own at least $50,000 worth of software. As a small business, competing with the next guy, how would I like it if the "next guy" has the same tools, but stole them? If the tools are well protected, I can at least try to compete... knowing that my competitor had to buy his tools as well.

I am on record stating the eLicensor is a POS technology (especially on the mac) -- and I am on the record liking the iLok. No, make that LOVING the iLok. But this thread is not about copy protection -- it is about WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY BUY when you buy a VSL DVD package (or any software)? I think they are very clear that you are buying a license to use the tools, and the license is installed on the eLicensor dongle. Do they really need to state in writing that if the dongle is lost, the licenses are lost as well? Sounds like fun for lawyers...

I am SORRY for your loss. Really. It's a disgusting feeling to have something lost or stolen. I know. Been there -- but in this case I don't think we can expect much more than a discount from VSL for new licenses. Don't lose your dongle.

Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 20:50
by cesare.italy
Joined on Thu, Feb 27 2003, Posts 89

jeremyroberts, thank you for your reply. I think it adds the point of view of the music professional to the discussion and I think that the point of unfair competition (the unfair advantage of musician stealing the software) is actually right and understandable.

On the other hand I ask you to also try to see things from my perspective: that of the hobbiest (and SE is not meant as a professional tool). For me 2000 euros investment in SE is a huge amount of money cause it is done just for the sake of, well, fun. It is an investment which is never going to bring me any money back. Since I use the software only for my enjoyment, it doesn't really make any difference to me if the guy sitting next to me on the train uses the same tool illegally. I buy the software cause I think it is right and it costs me time and work to get to buy the software.

I do not use VSL for work, this means that I try to use it in my little spare time: it can be in different places and, often, when I travel. But, by having to take the Vienna key around a lot, chances are also high that it gets lost or stolen (eg together with the backpack).

This said, being told that the whole investment I've done for a music software is 100% linked to a small pieceof hardware

- which has got nothing to do with the product I've bought (it doesn't add anything to the software, it rather slows it down)

- and which brings me no gain at all

becomes something very hard to digest.

Again, I'm not asking for no copy protection. I'm just asking for a reasonable system. People in this forum have pointed out simple solutions which would allow to restore lost or stolen licenses easily why can't that be implemented?

A final observation: these cons of the Vienna key were not written anywhere on this website until a bit ago. People at Vienna told me that they'll now start adding this info on the site, I still didn't have a chance to check whether they've started to do so, but I trust they will. But the plain fact that the information has been "missing" for so long leaves an open question regarding whether this key=license approach is really 100% correct torward the costumer (I'm sure it is legal, I'm just speaking about correctness).

Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 21:15
by civilization 3
Joined on Sat, May 16 2009, SF Bay Area, Posts 1953

I chimed in as there were one or two persons here with broken dongles.

I lost a Yellow Tools dongle once, losing 300 bucks. They were clear in the manual about that.

I've had Steinberg replace install disks as well (Interestingly, I've had good & timely support always from that company which (on the internet) has a horrible rep for support. The art of letter-writing may factor in?).

Apple M1 - Mac OS 14
Posted on Tue, Jul 13 2010 22:42
by jeremyroberts
Joined on Thu, Apr 17 2003, New York, NY USA, Posts 282
cesare.magri wrote:

 For me 2000 euros investment in SE is a huge amount of money 

For anyone!

A few years ago, a pro musician over at the Digidesign forum (DUC) lost his iLok on his tour bus. The discussion led to the suggestions to Waves to do the TLC program -- which basically removes the permanent license from your dongle and replaces it with a temporary license that MUST be re-charged every 90 days. A lost or stolen dongle then has no value to the finder or thief as it will self-destruct within 90 days.

The idea that a license can live on a dongle, yet only remain active after a "phone home" to the mothership is offensive to some, and welcome to others. Waves solved this issue by making the TLC program optional. If you travel with your dongle, TLC is probably a smart choice. If you have outsiders in your studio and your dongle is a theft risk, etc... On the other hand, for a home studio, TLC may be a headache you are unwilling to deal with...

In my opinion, traveling with dongles can be risky. I travel with mine when I have to... and I am never comfortable for a few reasons:

  1. potential for loss or damage
  2. potential for loss or damage
  3. potential for loss or damage

The way that I move my dongles: connected to a non-powered usb hub and well protected from physical damage. And always on my person. A TSA (airport security) office once tried to handle it and I made it very clear that NOBODY was to touch it without my presence. At least in the US you can have a discussion with the TSA officer before they inspect things, and by law, they must respect your wishes... if you tell them, "no, you can't touch that", they won't - (you can't get on the plane, but your property is safe).

Some software is best on a dongle, and some are not. In my opinion, VSL belongs on a dongle for the following reasons:

  • I can take my VSL hard drive with me and work at someone else's studio.
  • I can move my VSL instruments to different computers within my studio, as needed

AND -- never have to "authorize"

As opposed to the disk-based auths of Native Instruments and Spectrasonics. I HATE not being able to simply work at another studio without a big authorization issue. And it's not common for other studios to let you bring a boot drive.

So the flexibility that the dongle brings is worth  the headache. What other solution would you propose? Retinal scans before each use?

Unfortunately, the concept of the license living on a piece of plastic is hard to accept if lost... but as someone mentioned before, jewelry is a small item that can be lost. Or a watch. Or just about any "small" item of value. What would you do if you lost a ring? What would the expectation be of the supplier?

I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I really hope you can work something out with the software vendors. And please try not to lose your dongles in the future.

Posted on Wed, Jul 14 2010 06:21
by cesare.italy
Joined on Thu, Feb 27 2003, Posts 89

Jeremyroberts, that's true: different use of the key indeed might requires different types of authorization. The Waves method sounds brilliant! Thus I'd like to use this forum to ask the Vienna people if they could do a step forward torward their "non-professional" users and consider that type of solution especially since I'm still convinced that watches or rings are not the right term of comparison for the licenses that we bought.

To Gianna:

unfortunately there is little reference to the Vienna key in the VSL manual at all, same for the license agreement: you'll only read about the licenses, that's it.

Regarding Steiberg: I've read awful things about the company on the forums and that's what always kept me from trying Cubase although some features such as the VST expression are quite interesting. But now  I'm glad hearing that someone has had a good experience :-)



Posted on Wed, Jul 14 2010 07:01
by civilization 3
Joined on Sat, May 16 2009, SF Bay Area, Posts 1953

Well, fortunately I knew from my steinberg and YT experience to watch out for the dongle. I moved once and lost the YT one.

There is a forum, cubase.net which is basically unofficial, which has a somewhat tendentious relationship with the user base. Steiny's attitude toward the customer base is somewhat arrogant on the issue of bug fixes vs new features (the former doesn't always even happen) and it looks at times like marketing dept has a bit too much say in things. OTOH, people opining in the negative will post on the internet many times over those w. a positive POV. It may be that I'm just lucky with it, but every time I've had an issue, they were timely and helpful. It may be that someone writes them angrily, or in not the best style to read, and that gets waylaid. Something I learned from my father, to write in a business-like (concise) and polite manner when you want to get service.

Apple M1 - Mac OS 14
Posted on Wed, Jul 14 2010 08:00
by Pekay
Joined on Sun, Apr 26 2009, Stockholm, Posts 81
Interesting discussion,
so what's the bottom line? I have licensed an apartment and then I go and lose the key. Are my days in the apartment over, unless I buy a new key? Sounds scary. A key or a dongle can be lost in many ways. Like if you lose your Visa card, you can't get to your money.
Maybe I'll stop using Vienna and put the dongle in a vault.
Posted on Wed, Jul 14 2010 10:40
by Martinz
Joined on Wed, Nov 26 2008, Kaprun, Posts 50

Agree, very interesting discussion. Didn't know about this.

I will never in my life buy the cube och super package until there's a sort of a backup system! Can't understand how people have taken this huge risk!

Cubase 12
Dell Precision Tower 7810, 2x Intel E5-2667v3, 64 GB Windows 10
Mac Pro 5,1 12 core 2x3,46 GHz 96 GB OS X 10.13.6
Posted on Wed, Jul 14 2010 13:05
by jeremyroberts
Joined on Thu, Apr 17 2003, New York, NY USA, Posts 282
Martinz wrote:
I will never in my life buy the cube och super package until there's a sort of a backup system! Can't understand how people have taken this huge risk!


If you keep the dongle in a safe place, there is no risk. Else, insure it for its full replacement value (not what you paid, less so-called "depreciation" (which is silly when looking at the insured item - it doesn't depreciate, but the Euro does fluctuate against world currencies, and the true replacement cost is the Euro, not your local currency).

A buddy of mine used to keep his logic xskey on his regular keychain with his house and car keys -- never an issue -- but I thought he was insane for that.

IN MY OPINION, NEVER, never, never plug your dongles directly into a computer. ALWAYS, always use a hub or extender or dongle buddy. In my experience, many (most?) dongle failures are mechanical. Not that I've ever had one, just anecdotal... and would you know, the few failures that I've heard about were all due to physical stress. ADDITIONALLY -- with a dongle attached to your logic board, you risk damaging your computer each time you insert or remove, so I am VERy cautious -- and use a hub. Less contact with the dongle, cpu, etc...



But DAMAGED dongles are not really an issue, since the company(s) will ALWAYS replace damaged auths if you have the dongle. I have never, EVER heard of a company that failed to restore auths (for free) if the dongle failed, and was returned to them. That is not really the issue. The issue is loss or theft. And the only solution from any company out there is Waves. And yes, I would support VSL if they provided a time-bombed solution with a "phone-home". But the privacy guys hate this. But so what? How many times in your life have you been without an internet connection for more than 90 days?

I would also agree to IP-specific use -- that is, I would tell VSL where I am using the library, and if it can't connect to the server, the software would time-bomb -- BUT, BUT - BUT, this better be FREAKING PERFECT, else mass exodus. And considering the "we can re-invent our own wheel" mentality of VSL web site, I would be very cautious before allowing VSL to do this.

MY points: there are many solutions, and none are perfect. VSL needs to protect their IP. The customers need to protect the value of their investment. How would you do this if you were VSL?

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