YouTube's plans to share advertising revenues with the people who upload videos to its site may prepare the way for it to exact greater commercial control over content, say commentators.
Chief executive of YouTube, Chad Hurley, said at Davos this weekend that the company is working on a system to allow users to be paid for their content.
At present YouTube subscribers do not receive any royalties but they do not have to give the site exclusive rights to their videos.
Nicholas Carr, former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, said on his blog Rough Type: "I would bet that. . . at some point in the not-too-distant future, YouTube will demand an exclusive license in return for payment.
"If we assume. . . that a relatively small number of videos and video producers will receive a disproportionate percentage of views and generate a disproportionate amount of ad revenues, then 'locking up' that content and those producers will become increasingly important in the years ahead.
"Controlling the 'stars' will be as critical to YouTube as it is to any media business."
YouTube could not be reached for comment.
The site was bought by Google for $1.65bn dollars (£840m) in November last year despite having no proven revenue model. The new system, due to be launched in the next couple of months, is seen as a way of increasing the amount of advertising on the site without alienating its users.
Mr Carr said: "To justify the huge amount of money Google paid for the site, YouTube needs to begin incorporating ads into videos on a large scale. By sharing a fraction of the resulting revenues with its members, it makes the expansion of advertising feel like a gregarious move, aimed at benefiting 'the community' rather than exploiting it."
Only users who own the full copyright of the videos they are uploading are eligible for a share of the revenues. For those videos that include other material, such as a copyrighted backing track, YouTube is developing a fingerprinting system to identify the music people are using in their videos.
Mr Hurley said: "When this music is identified the labels will be notified, they'll have the ability to claim that content and generate revenue against that piece of video, and the user has a free and legal way to be creative and use these works."