YouTube, friend or foe'" asked The New York Times this week. It is a question the film industry has been asking ever since YouTube and other user-content aggregators started taking off - and with good reason.

Firstly, much of the content of this new wave is less user-generated than user-procured - pirated from film or television.

Just as importantly, businesses such as YouTube have taken a monstrous chunk out of the online video market and started to attract big money.

It is a trend that is set to continue, according to a report from analyst Screen Digest. It believes that 55% of all video consumed online will be user-generated in five years' time.

But there is another telling prediction which suggests that while advertising could grow from $200m in 2006 to almost $900m, user-generated content will generate just 15% of all online video revenues by 2010. "As yet though, no-one has found a way to make real money from the huge audiences who participate on these sites," says the report's author, Arash Amel. "The interesting developments in this market are going to be about who can monetise user-generated online video, and how they'll do it."

And so the friend or foe argument is not really about user-generated content versus traditional film.

Learning from the devastating effect of file-sharing sites on the music industry, the studios are working with the likes of YouTube as a potentially powerful marketing tool - and some studios have been buying into the user-content market.

Whether the relationship between film and user-generated content will be one of symbiosis or conflict is not yet clear, but there is no doubt that YouTube and its equivalents are here to stay.