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Digital commerce moves one step closer

Softbank Net Solutions and LitleNet adopt technology that allows content creators to sell and track digital information -- from research to movies.

Two electronic commerce infrastructure providers, Softbank Net Solutions and LitleNet, will cooperate to create services for customers that want to sell, distribute, and market digital products securely on the Internet.

The partnership involves a license clearinghouse that utilizes technology from InterTrust Technologies. InterTrust's secure container technology, called DigiBox, allows content creators to track and get paid for software or digital content even when the original buyer passes it on to others.

Software vendors selling over the Net will be the alliance's first target market, but DigiBoxes also can be used for other digital products: movies, music, reports, and images. LitleNet and Softbank also intend to pursue those markets.

"Ours is a very horizontal business, not a vertical business," Softbank Net president Paul Bandrowski told CNET, adding that health care and training are potential markets. "We are making about a $30 million investment in a rights management and clearinghouse system. People can use that system and tools to apply to various marketplaces."

Softbank Net Solutions is a new Softbank spin-off that will specialize in back-end services for electronic commerce. Last month it agreed to create an InterTrust rights clearinghouse that would track DigiBoxes and manage both payments and the business rules that designate how content may be used.

LitleNet is an electronic-commerce and direct-marketing services company formed in 1995 by Tim Litle after he sold an earlier company that handled credit-card transactions for the major online services. LitleNet's Direct Commerce Network will function essentially as a reseller of Softbank's InterTrust services.

LitleNet itself already runs the first certified rights clearinghouse for software sold and distributed over the Internet. It will add Softbank InterTrust Exchange to its menu of offerings.

Although Softbank is the first InterTrust rights clearinghouse, others are expected. Earlier this month, Japanese giant Mitsubishi agreed to use and promote InterTrust's technology as a standard. InterTrust says other major partnerships are pending.

Mitsubishi is expected to form a InterTrust digital clearinghouse and to use DigiBoxes for the new DVD (digital video disks) players, which eventually will include both VCRs and PCs.