Popular users to get cut of ad revenue

YouTube has finally introduced its revenue-sharing program, but only for its biggest producers.

Google-owned viral video site announced Friday that it will start giving a cut of ad revenue to some of the most popular amateur video brands on its site, such as lonelygirl15 and LisaNova.

They will get approximately the same revenue share from the performance of display ads around their videos as YouTube’s professional partners, such as the NBA and BBC.

Though YouTube will consider including other producers, it’s being very selective. Unlike Revver, the first video site to share ad revenues with producers, it won’t include everyone who submits videos.

“One of the things we hope to do by adding this group of users to our content partner program is to say that a lot of the content created by the YouTube community has as much merit as any of our professional partners,” said Jamie Byrne, YouTube head of product marketing.

YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley said the site would start sharing some revenue with producers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January.

While many producers have used their YouTube popularity to gain publicity and, in some cases, sign deals with studios or other Web sites that pay, this opportunity is their first to actually make money on the world’s No. 1 video site.

“It’s very gratifying to see a year of hard work rewarded through our inclusion in the first revenue-sharing program on YouTube,” said lonelygirl15 co-creator Miles Beckett.

News came as YouTube was hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit by British soccer league the Premier League and music publisher Bourne Co., similar to the one already filed by Viacom.

Their complaint is posted online at the Web site Youtubeclassaction.com, which encourages other copyright owners to join the suit against YouTube and Google.

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