Creators of the YouTube network Fine Brothers Entertainment, Benny and Rafi Fine made an attempt to trademark and license a popular video format known as “react.” The “react” format refers to a common video content showing the bloggers filming their response, most commonly to new music videos, movies, and other contents. BBC news reported that the plan received negative responses and a significant loss of subscribers on the Fine brothers’ channel.
The Fine Brothers had established dominance over the reaction video format in 2014, and furthered their grasp on the content since. The brothers had registered a trademark application for their YouTube channel, React, in July 2015. Afterwards, the brothers announced the React World, which was created in January to allow fans to make their own React videos, licensing the rights to the format created by the Fine Brothers with production guidance. Benny and Rafi Fine frequently spoke out about how they perceived certain people to have stolen ideas from them, like when they criticized Ellen Degeneres for running a reaction video and “taking it as her own.”
“In my opinion, YouTube is a platform for shared ideas; for leaping off of each other’s work,” said Sohee Ahn (10), frequent user of YouTube. “The concept of trademarking, especially when it revolves around a commonly used word, shouldn’t be allowed. Considering the type of platform that YouTube is, I think the Fine Brothers are prioritizing their business goals over the ideas promoted on networking sites such as YouTube.”
According to the Guardian, the negative responses rooted from the fact that reaction videos had existed even before the React format. In response to their announcement that they were attempting to trademark the format, many YouTubers voiced their discontent with the brothers trying to take credit for something they had not come up with in the first place. In fact, some YouTubers responded by filming their own reaction videos upon hearing the news. Some critics said that the word “react” was too commonly used; others claimed that the brothers were going too far to avoid having their content being stolen.
“I felt like the way they explained their aim wasn’t really appropriate, because it created a lot of confusion that could have been avoided,” Joanne Lee (10) said. “They claimed that they never started the trademark attempt out of their own greed, but it’s hard for people to believe that because after all, they’re a business.”
After viewing the negative public response, the Fine Brothers released an apology video for being unclear about their explanations of the plan as well as a statement on rescinding all their “React” trademarks and applications, discontinuing the React World program, and releasing all past content ID claims. The brothers explained how they realized the system they built could easily be viewed as selfish and how they plan to continue to move forward with creating content.