The Fine Brothers “React World” Scandal

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In January 2016, Fine Brothers Entertainment shocked the YouTube community when they launched “React World,” an initiative to capitalize on the reaction community that is best known by their attempt to trademark the word “React.” Step back in time and watch the video that started my analysis on YouTube.

Transcript:

Today we’re going to be taking a look at something pretty controversial which is the Fine Brothers React World announcement they just announced a few days ago. Now this has been trending all over the internet. It’s been trending on Reddit, which has perhaps been the most notable for raining showers of hate down upon this video, and a lot of YouTubers have been talking about it especially within the reaction community. So I’m going to react to this video, probably just highlights because I have a lot of my own thoughts I want to give and I want to make time for everything.

“It’s because of all your support that we’re now announcing this big thing that will bring us closer than ever before by creating a new way for us to create content together”
– Sounds positive
“This is not only a huge step for our company but for the entire global media industry.”
Wow, must be impressive!
“What has been missing is how to expand react further to communities across the world, which we know for years is something all of you have wanted and we want it too.”
– Or you mean like all reactors are already doing currently, right?
“We’re excited to announce React World, the first-of-its-kind program that allows people and companies to license all popular shows online so that anyone, even you watching right now, can create your own versions in a fully legal way and be part of a new and exciting global community. And unlike in TV where you have to pay huge amounts up front, we’re providing a license with no upfront fees. Instead we’re sharing revenue with you after you start uploading.”
– So what they’re doing is actually what all MCN do currently, right – they’re actually trying to pitch becoming an MCN and being able to license their stuff is a value add, except you have to give them a percentage of everything you make just like you do with any MCN. You are also able to join them without being part of an MCN, however then you give them forty percent of all of the revenue of your ads on your videos. Now bear in mind that no matter how you feel about reactors, all reactors are doing all this currently without giving a cut to anybody.
“Along with a license we’re going to give you a bunch of resources to help you create the shows, make money and get featured and voted by us in various ways”
– Value-add
“Part of why we believe this initiative is important is due to witnessing many creators, ourselves included, having their shows and formats blatantly stolen by companies and people both online and on television and we implore everyone not to support those companies and channels.”

So here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure I’ve never once heard a YouTuber complain about somebody else stealing their format. At the end of the day, format’s just a format, and I don’t know if it’s something that can really be trademarked. Now your branding of course can be – that can absolutely be trademarked – your graphics, your design. However, the actual format of your show?

If another reactor wanted to do exactly what I’m doing right now and they wanted to pick another girl to sit exactly where I’m sitting and use a white and blue background and just change the name, they could probably do that. It’s called the derivative work. It would have to be battled out in court, but for the most part I haven’t heard any YouTubers complaining about this; it’s just competition within the market.

“When you notice someone ripping someone’s format off, don’t stand for it. By licensing our formats and trademarks, everyone will know that you’re doing this legally with our company’s guidance. We look forward to the time when we can look back to this moment to this video with all of you knowing that this was when we all stood together, change the way things were done and created this first-of-its-kind global community. If you’re interested in creating your own version of any of our react formats, which if you don’t then what is wrong with you?”

Well that was condescending. So initially when I saw this video, I didn’t have any negative feelings about it. I was like all right, this is interesting, they’re offering a new channel for this so that maybe the people who decide to participate in this MCN will be featured on that channel which might bring them publicity, all the meanwhile building the Fine Brothers brand. Maybe it works, you know, where both sides are benefiting, especially if you’re lazy enough that you don’t want to come up with your own format. However, the problem comes when you stop and think of how they’re going to have to enforce this. I mean honestly I feel like they don’t even believe what they’re saying.

Let’s take a field trip shall we? Welcome to the Museum of React World on YouTube. Exhibit A is the Fine Brothers video. Note the dislikes. Apparently the public is taking issue with this. Let’s scroll down to the comments. Hmm, it appears as though things are being actively monitored. In fact, this very comment by Fine Brothers Entertainment has been posted and deleted several times over to delete the torrents of hate that have appeared underneath the comment. In fact, look here: you just keep deleting the comments?

Yeah. Now i’m not saying deleting comments is wrong necessarily, but when an issue’s becoming a public debate like this it doesn’t look too good for you. So let’s take a look at how the Fine Brothers are actually going to enforce their license if this goes through. Now the Fine Brothers have said, “We do not own the idea of reaction videos nor would we shut down anyone making reaction based content. Of course you can make your own react videos.” However what they’re doing legally says otherwise.

Here is the truly scary thing: Among the list of names that they are trying to trademark, including elders react, kids react, teens react, they actually have the audacity to try to trademark just the word react. So what does that mean? That means videos of “Woman reacts to hearing for the first time,” “Baby reacts to seeing for the first time,” “I react to a duck swimming across the river” — Whatever it is, it’s going to be trademarked and if this trademark actually goes through, it means we will not be able to use the word react within certain contexts, for example groups reacting to a video.

Now I’m not sure what size these groups have to be to be defined because of course the Fine Brothers pussyfooted around this in their video that they showed, however this is really serious. Imagine if no YouTubers could use the word react? And more importantly, because I have a feeling that this isn’t going to stand – I cannot imagine this possibly going through – but more importantly is that it shows their intentions. If they just wanted to trademark Elders React for example and trademark it in their specific format they always do, that’s one thing, but trying to trademark all of reactions? That’s quite another.

And even if this falls through, they have backup plans. In fact, Google “Fine Brothers React World.” When you Google Fine Brothers React World, the first article that comes up is a puff piece, but there is something interesting here. “Fine Brothers Entertainment said it is working closely with YouTube on the launch of React World.” Now this has been speculated upon and there are other resources through reddit that you can follow if you choose to. Google those links that lead one to believe that if they work closely with YouTube they can just get any react content pulled like that, the same way that music companies can get their videos pulled instantly, and the same way that movie companies can get theirs pulled. If you have a special agreement with YouTube like Universal Music Group does for example, anything can be pulled legal or not, so it would just depend on who they want to target. So essentially what they’re doing is they’re eliminating all competition – all competition – and they’re doing it at a time when reaction channels are just starting to boom.

Isn’t that coincidental? The problem I have with this is they are totally abusing a system and trying to keep competitors down as if enough people don’t do that to Youtube content creators already. Yet they’re trying to position it in a way that they’re doing the world a favor and this is a huge step for video kind. I don’t buy it, not with what you’re doing with the patents, and more is going to come out, and that is why you guys are losing subscribers by the thousands right now instead of gaining as many as you do usually each day. This is not okay.

As for what you can do as the viewer watching this, the best thing you can do is stay informed watching videos like mine on this, Boogie did a video on it. Cr1tiKal did a video on it, and I’m sure there’s going to be many more in the coming days as this unfolds. Stay informed and see what you can do to support the creators who bring you the content that you enjoy, because when people start doing those dirty behind-the-scenes deals with YouTube, everybody gets screwed.

And on a personal note, what bothers me most are that these guys – I’ve watched their content, I’ve enjoyed their content i love YouTubers React. I don’t watch it every time but I tune in, and what bothers me is these guys took a relatively easy format and they were successful with it and they made it big – 14 million plus subscribers is huge, it is nothing to sneeze at – yet they are still greedy. And that’s what bothers me, because they are cannibalizing other YouTubers and that’s just against the ethos of everything that YouTube stands for. YouTube, back in the day, the slogan was “Broadcast Yourself,” and these guys are making it so that if you try to broadcast the most simple thing you possibly could, your reaction to things, they’re trying to make it so that’s not okay.

Who says that a let’s player like myself (I have a gaming channel) – who’s to say that I can’t go file a trademark for the let’s play format and claimed that I own it? Finally I could conquer PewDiePie. Well Sony’s tried that and they failed. This is not something that’s been upheld. The danger really is that if this doesn’t get upheld that they might still go through YouTube to make sure this is enforced, and that is a scary thing, so the best thing we can do is voice our opinions on it, whatever they are this is me voicing mine.

This is different from most of my reaction videos but this is very seriously my reaction to something that would very much affect me and a lot of other content creators out there. I hope you enjoyed and I’ll go ahead and link to a funny video after this one to lighten the mood.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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