In the first internet licensing deal announced at a web-crazed Sundance Film Festival this year, AtomFilms has paid a modest upfront fee to acquire both on- and off-line rights to Jason Reitman's 16 minute short feature, In God We Trust.

AtomFilms, a Seattle-based web operation that specialises in distributing short films over the internet including award-winning animations from the UK's Aardman, says there is already interest from a US network in licensing the cable TV rights to Reitman's film. The deal was struck a full four days before the film's first festival screening this coming Thursday.

A life-and-death comedy about a hero who tries to outrun the reaper, In God We Trust was programmed at Sundance to precede the full-length feature A Sign From God, playing as part of the American Spectrum sidebar. Reitman is the son of Ghostbuster's director Ivan Reitman.

AtomFilms backers include both Warner Bros Online (soon to be part of AOL) and former Universal Studios chairman Frank Biondi. The company says it pays between $500 and $1000 for the shorts that it acquires, plus a royalty on any subsequent licensing deals. Distributors of short films peg the average acquisition fees at closer to $300 and say that AtomFilms also charges a sales commission on any off-line deals it strikes.