YouTube Inc. will start paying "the most popular and prolific" members of its video sharing website, the company announced Thursday.

"Up until now there’s been a distinction between the content you create and the content created by YouTube's professional content partners," a post on YouTube's corporate blog stated.

"We want to start changing some of the perception here. Which is why we’re adding several of the most popular and prolific original content creators from the YouTube community to our partnership program."

YouTube will initially move a handful of its top video-posters who have "built and sustained large, persistent audiences" to a revenue-sharing arrangement similar to those enjoyed by broadcasters such as CBS and NBC, professional sports organizations such as the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League, as well as music and other entertainment companies, including Universal Music Group and video game publisher Electronic Arts.

Among the first members to be able to take advantage of the promotional and financial opportunities under the new system is New Zealand actress Jessica Lee Rose. Rosebecame an online sensation, with millions viewing her fictitious diary-like clips posted under the name "lonelygirl15," in which she portrayed herself as a teenager named Bree.

YouTube will place ads next to videosand give the members who created the clipsa cut of the income. YouTube will choosewhich contributors will be paid, but those contributorswill be able to choose which of their videos will be accompanied by ads.

People who want to be considered for the partner program can apply through a form on YouTube's website.

YouTube is being sued by Viacom Inc. for alleged copyright infringement. Earlier this year, Viacomforced the site to take down about 100,000 videos.

Google Inc. bought YouTube for $1.65 billion US in 2006 in an all-stock deal.