Natwest Group of London said it will launch in October an electronic payment service designed to protect copyrighted digital materials from Internet piracy.
Digibox software from Magex, a new division of Natwest's card services group, would enclose copyrighted Internet content-music, books, games, films, and business information-in a software "envelope."
Digibox would control use of the material, enforcing compliance with customized purchase and access rules agreed to by the content provider and the consumer.
Natwest would act as a clearing house for payments. Content providers would pay licensing fees, and Natwest would also earn a few cents on each transaction.
Reuters Group, Dun & Bradstreet and Equifax Inc. have already agreed to use the system. They are expected to begin testing in August and September.
Owners of copyrighted material have been struggling for ways to prevent unauthorized redistribution over the Internet.
Digital content will account for 20% of the value of all goods and services traded over the Internet in 2002, Natwest estimates. Forrester Research Inc. has put the latter figure at $327 billion.
Bernard Horn, executive director of group operations at Natwest Group, said it needed "to tackle security and the protection of intellectual property rights in the digital world."
The Digibox software was developed over 18 months with Intertrust Technologies Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif. Last year the $300 billion-asset banking company bought a worldwide license to Intertrust technology.
Digibox resides on consumers' personal computers. Consumers can get it in several ways: already installed on PCs, by download from the Magex Web site, by clicking through to Magex from a content provider's site, or on compact or digital video discs.
"This model is aimed for mass acceptance," said Peter Beverley, managing director of Magex.
Consumers can choose to pay for content in advance or as they use it. Magex "can be assimilated into everyday immediacy of use and flexibility of choice in ways we haven't seen before," Mr. Horn said.
Andrew Farrow, head of commercial development for Magex, said the system can protect assets on-line while letting content providers establish flexible pricing rules and giving consumers access to high-quality data.