Vyou.com's Viewfirst software will allow sites to, for example, display an image but prevent visitors from copying it.
CEO Peter Levy created Vyou based on his experience: He formerly ran car-information site IntelliChoice, where he had to fight another site that not only lifted the site's content but also its design.
Marcelo Ziperovich, chief creative officer at Imagistic Media Studios, a Venice, Calif., Web developer that has worked for Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and dot-coms such as CarsDirect.com, has reviewed the technology as a beta customer and sees security as something bankable in Hollywood.
Entertainment companies are "so afraid of losing their images," he noted. "If you put a high-res version of Mickey Mouse out there [on a site], it will get pirated and be put on T-shirts within days."
A news site visitor now might copy a story and e-mail it to colleagues. With Vyou's service, a site could prohibit copying, but make it easy to forward a story link. If colleagues did visit, the site would get traffic and could serve ads.
Finally, Mr. Levy pitches e-commerce opportunities: Sites will be able to display full content -- articles, market research reports and images. Visitors who want to save or print the content first must buy it.
Mr. Levy is talking with one print and online publisher that sells a basic subscription to its site. The company, a beta customer, is considering using Vyou technology for three-tiered pricing -- bronze subscribers could view content; gold subscribers could view and print; and platinum subscribers could view, print and save. That would let the publisher cut the basic price in order to win subscribers.
Mr. Levy wouldn't reveal beta customers, but the company's demo shows The Wall Street Journal's Interactive Edition. He said only, "I used them as an example."
He said beta customers include a major sports league, a stock image supplier, and entertainment and financial companies.
Small sites will pay "a few hundred dollars" for a package allowing about a year's worth of page views -- less than 1› a page. Large sites will pay "several thousand dollars" plus a lower per-page rate; the total could be $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
Vyou has company. ICopyright.com, for example, offers instant reuse and reprint rights for material from participating publishers, such as the Los Angeles Times.
AGENCY SEARCH UNDER WAY
Vyou will release Vyoufirst April 5 at Internet World, where it's expected to announce it has raised at least $9 million in venture capital. The company is talking with CMGI-owned AdForce about promoting the system to AdForce clients. Vyou was talking to potential agencies for a business-to-business ad campaign.
Mr. Ziperovich, the developer, said Viewfirst "changes the whole way that Web development gets done, if it's adopted universally."
That assumes the system tested by professional hackers is secure. "Sooner or later -- hopefully it will be later, but it could be sooner -- someone is going to hack around this," Mr. Levy acknowledged. Vyou is setting up procedures to make a fast fix if that happens.