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The internet reacts to The Fine Brothers' "react" trademark - and it's not happy

UPDATE: Fine Bros drop trademark claims, pull React World.

UPDATE 2nd Feb 2016: Well, that didn't take long. The Fine Brothers have dropped their controversial "react" trademark claim and ditched the planned React World initiative.

In a message posted on Medium, the pair apologised for sparking the furore that threatened to envelop the Fine Brothers various YouTube channels.

The Fine Brothers have also taken their own videos down relating to React World, which is why the videos embedded in this story below no longer work.

Here's the message in full:

  • A message from the Fine Brothers
  • Hello,
  • We're here to apologize.
  • We realize we built a system that could easily be used for wrong. We are fixing that. The reality that trademarks like these could be used to theoretically give companies (including ours) the power to police and control online video is a valid concern, and though we can assert our intentions are pure, there's no way to prove them.
  • We have decided to do the following:
  • 1. Rescind all of our “React” trademarks and applications.*
  • 2. Discontinue the React World program.
  • 3. Release all past Content ID claims.**
  • The concerns people have about React World are understandable, and that people see a link between that and our past video takedowns, but those were mistakes from an earlier time. It makes perfect sense for people to distrust our motives here, but we are confident that our actions will speak louder than these words moving forward.
  • This has been a hard week. Our plan is to keep making great content with the help of our amazing staff. Thank you for your time and for hearing us out.
  • Sincerely,
  • Benny and Rafi Fine
  • *This includes "React," "Kids React," "Elders React," "Lyric Breakdown," etc. Please note: It takes a while for the databases to update, but the necessary paperwork has been filed.
  • **Content ID is YouTube's copyright system that automatically flags content that looks like or sounds like copyrighted content. This mostly flags videos that are direct re-uploads of our videos (which is what the system is built for), but if you know of a video that has been claimed or removed incorrectly, please email us with “false claim” in the subject line.

ORIGINAL STORY 1st Feb 2016: Hot on the heels of Sony's attempt to trademark "Let's Play", The Fine Brothers, creators of the popular "React" series, are trying to trademark the word "react" - and the internet is not happy. At all.

Via a video published to the Fine Brothers Entertainment YouTube channel late last month, brothers Benny and Rafi Fine announced React World. The idea was that content creators would license the React format from the company in order to make similar videos. That was the plan, anyway.

Here's what The Fine Brothers were going for:

  • REACT Community Unite! REACT WORLD is a new and innovative way to license formats around the globe with no upfront cost, and our goal is to cultivate a worldwide community of creators (media companies, other production companies, and individuals) on digital media platforms around the REACT franchise.

To say the announcement of React World backfired would be one hell of an understatement.

Comments on YouTube and Reddit were unanimous in their criticism. The attempt to trademark the word "react" was labelled unethical, and the licensing business was seen as a cynical cash-grab.

Now, The Fine Brothers are faced with an internet backlash that has seen subscriber numbers tumble by one million. At one point, the Fine Brothers YouTube channel was shedding 10,000 subscribers an hour.

The backlash prompted an emergency apology video from The Fine Brothers, who attempted to better explain what they were trying to do. Think of it like Burger King, they said. If you get into bed with Burger King you can use their name, menu and all the rest of it. Otherwise, you have to go it alone as an independent restaurant.

The video didn't help.

1

The Fine Brothers have been fighting fires on Reddit and Facebook since the announcement of React World.

The Fine Brothers claim they do not wish to own the copyright on reaction videos. Rather, React World is about licensing show formats.

  • This is similar to TV where you can't make a show substantially similar to America's Got Talent, but of course you can make a completely different talent competition series. Same deal here.
  • 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, but React World is an opportunity to localize versions of our specific series. This is also a way to create a community on YouTube of like minded producers and fans who want to work together, and benefit from the guidance and resources that we can provide around the specific FBE shows that we are making available through the React World program.

Repeated attempts to explain the process on both Reddit and Facebook are falling on deaf ears, however, and subscriber counts continue to fall. There's even a livestream.

The Fine Brothers shot to internet stardom with the launch of the Kids React video series. We've features a number of their videos in the past, particularly those focusing on retro consoles.

Now, though, there are a raft of YouTube series from TFB, including Teens React, Elders React and YouTubers React. So popular is the React format that TFB's lumped them all into a spin-off channel, simply called React.

Critics of The Fine Brothers point to the fact reaction videos long pre-date the company's React format, which, arguably, began in 2007.

The YouTube community has also reacted in anger. Here's one hot take from video game humour channel Mega64:

It turns out The Fine Brothers have already secured a number of trademarks relating to their React videos, including Kids React. And in a Reddit post the company admitted its legal team has sent out letters to shows that used the phrase in their video titles.

  • ... trademark wise yes, you can't call a show "Kids React" just like you can't call a show "American Idol" - multiple people makes up PART of the elements, but not by itself, you would need to start the show the same way, have every element in the same exact spot, have the "question time" placed in the same way, boxes, timing, again if the show has a likelihood of confusion to a show, there could be an issue, but again, it's very specific and we are not going after anyone with React World.

What happens next? The Fine Brothers' React trademark will be published for opposition on 2nd February 2016. You imagine there will be plenty of that.

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