They pitched it to the world as if they were doing this great service to their fans and YouTube creators alike. When YouTube mega stars The Fine Bros announced the creation of “React World” to allow users to license their format for a share of the revenue the video generates, it turned out that almost no one agreed with their self-assessment.
Over the last week, the Fine Bros and their team have been in complete damage control mode as they try to quell the internet uproar over the brotherly duo and their company trademarking “react” and apparently claiming ownership of reaction videos on YouTube.
Let’s start at the beginning, I suppose. React World is Fine Brothers Entertainment’s plan to licence the ability to create React videos to other YouTubers using FBE trademarks and assets. In exchange, FBE gets a 20% to 30% share of the revenue that those licensing creators generate from their videos.
Fine Brothers Entertainment will be licencing 11 of their shows through React World including Kids React, Teens React, Elders React, Adults React, React Gaming, Do They Know It, People Vs Food, Lyric Breakdown, Try Not to Smile or Laugh, Opinions and People Vs Technology.
The problem may have started with The Fine Bros talking about their format, licensing their format and protecting their intellectual property. Reaction videos are a dime a dozen on YouTube so their format isn’t exactly unique. However, they imply in their announcement that people creating react videos without their license are stealing their format and then told people not to support those videos.
The fact that they refer to themselves as a cultural barometer of historical significance and massively overstating the importance of laughing at people watching videos doesn’t help their case either.
In the middle of the uproar over the Fine Bros apparent claim of ownership over react videos, it was revealed that FBE is applying for a trademark of the word “react.” The application states that it is for “entertainment services, namely, providing an ongoing series of programs and webisodes via the Internet in the field of observing and interviewing various groups of people.”
While internet/armchair legal experts say they can’t copyright a show format, they can trademark that one important word. As previous trademark cases have shown, a trademark is only really worth anything when it is enforced. If they want that trademark of react to be worth the paper it’s written on, they have to attempt to enforce it. That means that they would have to go after react videos and their creators to protect their react trademark.
In their own defense, the Fine Bros took to social media to state that they aren’t trying to stop people from making reaction videos. They’re trying to spin this as a way to allow creators to make their own videos under their branding (including those titles noted above). If they just said, we’re looking to license our current trademarks for money, people would still be a cynical about the whole thing but a lot less hostile.
Do I think that The Fine Bros are trying to completely kill the “third-party” reaction video market? No. Do I think that they realize the implications of what they’ve said and done in creating their empire? Absolutely not. The tools are there for them to basically militarize their trademarks and licensing to kill competition. That’s what’s getting everyone up in arms.