Let’s Talk Frankly About Theft, Derivability and File Sales


Theft has become the ever increasing buzzword on IMVU, whether it’s the Forums, Facebook or IMVU groups. Often times the words ‘Theft’ and ‘Thief’ are tossed around willy-nilly. Such allegations are often made with little to no understanding of what the rules of IMVU, Copyright, and Trademark infringement are.

Theft on IMVU is indeed rampant, making many an honest dev who works hard to create their own assets question why they even bother. But let’s be clear, what theft is and what many choose to call ‘theft’ are not always one and the same.

Crying wolf when no actual theft has occurred does nothing but to desensitize the community to the very real theft that is going on daily in the IMVU catalog. Per request I am penning this guide to help clear up the haze that is continually perpetuated around this topic.

Warning: I’m going to be using plain (non sugar coated) language here. If that kind of in your face talk offends, best stop reading now.

Words that we need to clearly define before we begin.

Deriving Chain: The family tree of a product.

ZCD (Zero Change Derive): A child product that is an exact copy of the parent with no changes made.

Parent Product: A product that is derivable and has been derived from.

Child Product: A Product that has be derived from another.

DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act): The United States law that protects the copyrights of all digital property.





First and foremost, what is theft in the world of IMVU.

Theft is the use or sale of a product or part of a product, images, sounds, animations, etc. without the express permission of the person or organization that owns the rights to said assets.



Zero Change Derives

Now before all you ZCD (zero change derive) haters get excited about that opening definition let me state this as simply and clearly as I can. Granting deriving permission grants the deriver EXACTLY THIS PERMISSION. Derivability grants use of any and/or all of the assets used in a parent product. Deriving is in and of itself NOT theft. Deriving a product and not adding or altering a thing is also NOT theft. It might be ‘cheating’ ‘lazy’ ‘unethical’ 'uncreative' or any other derogatory adjective you would like to put on it but it is not theft.

If you want to avoid zero change derives you can do what many meshers including myself have done, create derivables with ugly placeholder images that no one in their right mind would want to derive as-is. This has the added benefit of allowing you to use very small placeholder textures and keep the KB way down on your derivable meshes, a win win in my book! You will still get mesher posers zero change deriving from you but it’s a lot less than you would if your item was textured.

Option B, don’t try and beat them, join them. Some expressly make products to be zero change derived to let other folks market their products for them. It’s like having an army of overpriced cookie cutter mall shops selling your wears for you. Yep, even I do this too, some products like poses are ZCD magnates, all one can do is shrug.

How do we stop ZCDs? Simple. EDUCATION! We all need to do our part in helping to educate the consumer and new creator about how deriving chains work and how to find the original, and oftentimes MUCH CHEAPER version of the product they are looking at. IMVU has made this so convoluted by not having easy links in the shop, but heck I think if folks knew if a few extra clicks could save them a few hundred credits ZCD creators would soon find it was simply not cost effective to continue doing business as is and might, *gasp*, actually have to create something new!

Unfortunately as long as ignorance and apathy are the norm, ZCD will be here to stay.



Chain Deriving

Don’t want people chain deriving your products? Get over it, IMVU allows it.

Don’t like it? Then don’t leave your product derivable, period.

IMVU’s TOS is what we all agreed to to do business here and it supersedes any personal wishes you may have for your product’s use if it has been made derivable. You can politely ask for folks to go above and beyond what IMVU has said but other creators are under no obligation to do so in regards to selling their child product on IMVU. Nagging them about it is harassment.

Derivability from IMVU’s Creator Agreement (as of 2014)

"When you mark a product as derivable in the catalog, you give permission to every other IMVU Creator to derive a new product from your product. This permission also allows those other IMVU Developers to set their derived products to be derivable. You agree that since the original Developer in a product derivation chain always receives payment of their wholesale price, simply deriving from those derivations does not, in itself, constitute copyright infringement."

Fine, but it still sucks! How do we stop it?

Same as ZCDs, Education Education Education. Creators throw away hundreds of credits a day by deriving off of chain derived products. In addition on every sale they are paying a middle man (sometimes more than one) for the pleasure of being duped into chain deriving.

But I need derived sales for my Tiers, how else will I get them?

You won’t. Have you looked at the numbers you have to hit to get one point in that metric? If you’re not a mesher, and a popular one at that, it is not going to happen. The Derive sales metric is a mesher’s game.

But that’s not FAIR! Umm, meshers have the same issue, they don’t make massive direct sales. It is the rare dev that is a double threat, that gets strong Direct Sales AND strong Derive sales, and those are your T7s. In reality what is the difference between a T6 and a T7 besides a shiny badge? 50cr less a submission. I say to you two words, Developer Tokens. Might as well use that mountain of useless coin for something!

But waaaaaaaa. Fine leave everything derivable and feel good about all those extra sales you got from people being overcharged!



The Short of It

Derivability grants other creators permission to:

-Sell a child product AS-IS with no changes. (An exact copy of the parent.) *See Footnote*

-Sell a child product and reuse some or all of the parent product’s textures, mesh parts, animations, sounds, Flash files, particle code, etc in their child product. (Use all or parts of your product in their child product)

-Set a child product to derivable and allow deriving off it. (They can let folks derive from what they derive from you.)


Now let’s talk about what actually is DMCA protected

A deriver may not use the parent product’s icons, marketing materials, or creator’s other graphics or logos without express permission. (And you need that permission in writing!)

A deriver may not reuse or repurpose any provided assets, such as texture templates, on products that are not children of the source product. (You can’t take a template provided for use with product A and use it on product B.)

A deriver may not rip assets or in some other way break the deriving chain so that the source parent product is no longer in the deriving chain. (You cannot rip a product or any of it’s assets and resubmit them in a separate derive chain.)


To sum up

ZCDs are allowed
Chain Driving is allowed
Marketing re-use is not allowed
File Ripping is not allowed

So long as a Child-Parent relationship remains intact and the deriving chain leads back to the parent mesh there has been no breach of the agreement you granted by allowing your products to be derivable.



Now on to the next hot button issue, File Sales.

Files Sales are a perfectly legitimate business model when done legally. They allow for those who want a product asset but do not have the skills, time or software to create them to purchase said assets from those who wish to provide this service.

Folks on IMVU often pose the question, “Are people who use such services ‘legitimate’ creators?” To that I say, does it really matter? It’s allowed and it’s legal. What we call them is merely semantics. They are selling wears on IMVU so if that is what IMVU calls a ‘creator’ then that is what they are.

We must all remember IMVU is not a bohemian art community where only those who can make things from scratch can sell. IMVU is business and like what Betty Crocker did for baking cakes, file sales has done for creators, providing shortcuts to a final product.
You can love it, you can hate it, you can choose to ignore it, but whatever you choose it is here to stay.

But Files Sales are riddled with stolen content!

Yes, yes they are.

I had the personal pleasure of having this happen to me for the first of many times in Second Life many years ago. My business model centered around making custom homes with all my own exclusive textures so they were truly one of a kinds. Then one day I had the joy to wake up to an inbox full of customers saying, ‘Hey, have you seen this?’ What do I find? My competitors selling their homes using my personal textures on their homes! Where did they get them? File Sales! Files ripped off from me were being sold to my competitors and worse some were uploaded to the internet so they came up on Google searches! Ughhh. And yes, I have to deal with DMCAs still today from that first breach.

So with a bit of that insight you know my personal history with this and while I’ve been the victim many times over since then I am also a realist. Folks want shortcuts, and they are willing to pay cash money for them. And as always where there is easy money to be made scammers abound. While yes there are folks who are legitimate there are just as many who are selling rips. Rips from google, rips from games, rips from creators for other platforms, rips from other file sellers!

Instead of bashing files sales as a whole lets narrow that focus down to where the blame should lie, to those selling assets they have absolutely no right to have, let alone sell!

Here is the number one question to ask yourself about your file provider. Do they have the ability to make the item they are selling or giving you?

If the answer is no, then where did they acquire it? If there isn’t a clear and logical answer to that then don’t give them your money. (FYI ‘A friend made it and gave it to me.’ is the number one line a rip off artist will use. I’ve personally been fed that line over a dozen times.)

If they A, did not make it themselves and B, cannot grant you full commercial use rights in writing then DO NOT BUY FROM THEM!


Remember, if you use stolen files (whether you knew it or not) YOU are liable for the repercussions if those files belong to another and they choose to take action against you.

Know who you are buying from, MAKE SURE they are both skilled enough to make what they are selling AND are ethical business people!

Red Flags

Poor Communication
or the opposite, they use High Pressure Sales tactics
They are a guest account
They are on a new account
They want you to send the credits to another account
They have no catalog
They have a craptastic catalog yet the files they are selling are amazing.
Their catalog is full of ripped imagery or obvious Copyright and Trademark infringing items… Gucci, DKNY, L Vuitton etc. (If they are willing to rip off those company’s logos and trademarks what else are the willing to rip off?)
Have no ‘use agreement’ with sale.
Have cookie cutter products to what is already in the catalog.
They are incapable of doing custom work.
They are selling cheap. (An artist will not be selling their work for pennies.)

Instead Look for…

Sellers who are well established on IMVU.
Have a sizable catalog of products with comparable quality to what they are selling.
Have original content that cannot be found elsewhere on IMVU.
Can custom make files to order.
Sellers who charge an appropriate fee for their time, tools and their skills.



Files Sales not related to IMVU

There are legitimate file sale services and websites out there dedicated specifically to cater to the 3D Graphic Artist. Only on IMVU does file selling and using have a stigma, in the rest of the gaming industry buying assets is a standard practice. Check out Renderosity and Turbosquid to get a sampling of what is out there.

Look for sites that have clear and concise Terms of Service.

Be aware of what you can and cannot do with what they are providing.

Things you need to know if buying files or using ‘Free’ sites

You have no ownership rights to the files so you have no right to DMCA others who are using the same assets. (The exception is unless you outright purchased said ownership rights $$$$$ or the person who made the product was under your employ when making it.) Your use of said assets are limited to those stated in the purchase/download agreement.

Know the Lingo!

‘Use’ means Your Personal Use Only. Such things may not be sold or distributed in any way. Examples: Commercial Music, 3D models intended only to be used for rendering images, desktop wallpapers that are only used on your computer’s screen, clipart graphics, fonts, custom brushes that are to be only used on personal graphics/crafts, scrapbooks, and similar things only you, yourself would use.

‘Free’ ‘Royalty Free’ ‘Creative Commons’ these generally allow for unlimited use (See above for definition of use) with restrictions. Ha, how’s that for confusing!  In these cases always read the fine print, there are often use conditions that must be honored.

‘Commercial Use’ means something can be used on items that will be distributed to others or sold. Be sure to read the fine print. Some things can be sold as-is but most have to be derivative works and credit must be given to the artist.

‘Derivative Work’ Do not get IMVU’s working definition of a Derivable confused with a ‘Derivative Work’. In a Derivative Work the owner of the work must grant you permission to use the original file but it must be modified in some way so that it is clearly changed. Most also require that it is altered in a way that it cannot be extracted or resold as an independent asset again and credit must be given to the original artist.

‘Fair Use’ Forget about using this loophole. It is assumed you are creating on IMVU to profit. Credits=Cash. Whether you are cashing out or not a transaction of a monetary nature is happening when items are distributed on IMVU.



In Closing

Yes, Theft is Real, and Thieves abound on IMVU and it is only going to get worse as IMVU grows. Many see IMVU as ‘just a game’ and everything is theirs for the taking. They have blinders on when it comes to the rights of others and feel “It’s on the internet so it’s free.” They either have no ability to acknowledge that they are stealing, or worse they fully acknowledge it and don’t give a (insert colorful expletive of your choice here.). There is no reasoning with this mindset. You can rant you can rave, you can holler to the highest power, but parasites will continue to exist, and sadly often times thrive.

Here are the facts

Creating quality work is HARD!

IMVU creators are real people

You are stealing from hard working real people when you take their work.

Just because you are viewing this on a screen doesn’t make it any less real.

“But it’s not real, it’s just data.” Then the movie you paid to see isn’t real, the TV shows you watch are not real, the music you listen to is not real. Just because you can’t hold what someone makes in your hand doesn’t mean it has no value.

What are you paying for then? The EXPERINCE. If your IMVU experience is enhanced by something created by another, guess what, that IS value! Value that wouldn’t exist without the work of someone real. One’s work whether tangible of virtual has value, and to take it from them is theft. Welcome to the Digital Age, where digital property is REAL!

How do we stop it? We don’t. Entitlement driven unethical people thrive on the anonymity of the internet. What we can do is seek out and support those we know are true artists. They won’t be cheap, they won’t be able to spew out dozens of new products a minute. Buy their products! Send them notes! Let them know how much you appreciate their creations and thank them for being here.

Honestly speaking, it’s very hard to keep creating for IMVU knowing that some A Hole is going to just come along and steal your work and then try and undercut you with it. I know I am not alone. When your time is taken up more in filing DMCAs then Creating you begin to question why.


If my experience in Second Life is anything it is a cautionary tale, many amazingly talented people gave up completely because thieves stole their work and their customers instead were buying the cheap stolen copies from the thieves instead of from the artist which ultimately drove them out of business. I would hate to see that happen here, but sadly the tide is ever turning against us. IMVU’s creator community is a victim of its own success.

Yes, I end on a downer, not to bring you all down but to shine a light on how real this issue is and how it effects everyone, even to the absurd point, the thieves themselves, for if all the true creators give up creating new products, who is left to steal from?






*ZCD Footnote* IMVU at one time agreed that ZCDs were a problem. In an attempt to clean the catalog of the MASSIVE amount of duplicate products due to the practice of ZCDing IMVU ran a script to remove these copies. The result of that experiment was an utter disaster. Thus as of now it is what is is. Unless IMVU makes a fundamental change to the TOS we are stuck with the system we have.





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