Company Plans to Sell Consumers Licenses to Music, Movies

A startup company plans to launch an online commerce system Monday that would give people more options in how to get and use digital downloads including games, songs and videos.

Cupertino-based Navio Systems Inc.'s software and service platform is sold to content providers like music or movie companies, allowing them to sell consumers the rights to an individual piece of content rather than the downloads, or digital files, themselves.

The product also allows companies to use a variety of online distribution points from blogs to fan Web sites and gives consumers access to the downloads from all kinds of Web-connected devices including PCs, mobile phones and media players.

For instance, if a user lost copies of downloaded games or music today, chances are they would have to be bought again. Under Navio's system, a consumer could download it again free of charge, since the consumer purchased the license for it.

That would only be possible if the content provider allowed it. The terms of usage and prices for downloads would still be left to the content providers.

Navio's challenge would be to sign up many content owners to use its platform, said Gartner Inc. analyst Mike McGuire. So far, Navio's customers include Walt Disney Co.'s (DIS) Internet Group, Atom Entertainment Corp. and Fox Sports Mobile.

Still, the increased flexibility for content providers and consumers under Navio's comprehensive platform, which also includes the heavy-lifting for unifying different payment systems, is a unique, albeit ambitious, offering, analysts say.

"One of the frustrations that consumers have today is that they have limited options and a lot of restrictions," said Melissa Webster, an analyst at IDC, a market research firm. "But this lets the content owner install flexible bundles of rights to let consumers use the media the way they want."

Navio also said it is expanding its technology to allow any Navio-powered online music purchases to be played on Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL) popular iPod player, if that's a device content providers would want to include as part of their download offerings.

Currently, purchased downloads only from Apple's iTunes Music Store are playable on the iPod.

Fox Sports Mobile is owned and operated by News Corporation, as is