The Fine Brothers, the video duo best known for producing videos of people reacting to pop-culture videos, appears to need a public relations crisis manager this week… quickly.
Rafi and Benny Fine faced a serious online-community backlash in the past several days based on their efforts to take down other “react” videos as part of this new program (detailed in this hyperbole-packed video):
- According to Variety, the brothers’ new venture, React World, applied for trademark protection on “React” with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in July 2015.
- NY Magazine reports: “If you want to make a YouTube video of someone reacting to something, you’ll have to go through the Fine Bros.”
- The Fine Brothers even registered a trademark for the word “REACT” under “entertainment services, namely, providing an on-going series of programs and webisodes via the Internet in the field of observing and interviewing various groups of people” (Source: Ryan Morrison Law).
- Their goal, reports NY Magazine, is to remove other reaction videos, and instead aggregate and monetize “react” video on YouTube — like “Someone Reacts to Something” — with the Fines handling licensing and taking a cut of the profit.
So the online-video community and prominent YouTubers are pissed. How pissed?
1. Reddit Explodes Over Fine Brothers: Reddit video is so swollen with rants and rages, the editors created an unprecedented “flair” that identifies the top videos that react to the Fine Brothers desire to capitalize on reaction videos. More than half of the top-20 popular videos (as voted by Reddit community) today are about the Fine Brothers.
Says Reddit: “We’ve temporarily added ‘React Related’ and ‘YouTube Related’ flair for all of the current YouTube drama which is unfolding. If you’re interested in it, this’ll help you find it. If you’re not, it’ll help you avoid it.”
2. The FineBrothers Subscribers Are Dropping: This dude is streaming a countdown that shows the number of Fine Brothers subscribers dropping steadily and quickly. This one is even more melodramatic and features the brothers watching sadly.
3. YouTubers Are Spoofing the Hell Out of Them. For instance, YouTubers Mega64 spoofed the clip by deciding to copyright videos filmed outside. Even Hitler is pissed off (see “Hitler Reacts”). And YouTuber Peter Coffin takes on the hyperbole of the Fine Brothers clip one line at a time.
4. The Community is Watching The Bros Closely. People are identifying potential copyright and trademark infringements by the Fine Brothers Themselves.
The Fine Brothers use many web clips without license or permission, perhaps covered under “fair use.” But they’ve issued a series of “cease and desists” against other creators that mimic their format, according to many Reddit users. And they once sent fans to brigade programs like “Ellen” for airing a reaction bit they felt was too close to their own. Finally, does anyone remember Kids Say the Darnedest Things? Isn’t that the origin of Kids React?
In this Reddit thread, you’ll even read a debate about whether the two are respecting the copyright requirements of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), whose music the brothers used without credit in a video.
5. Whoops They Spoke Too Soon. The Fine Brothers announced this program and the attempt to trademark “REACTION” a bit too early- while still within the obligatory 30 days where anyone can file an opposition. Said Ryan Morrison Law: “Had the Fine Bros kept quiet for another month, they almost certainly would have gotten this trademark, as no one seemed to notice it. Instead, they announced their ridiculous licensing program and turned all eyes on them.”
6. Even Merlin is Pissed. Animator FilmCow (creator of Charlie & the Unicorn) had Merlin to address the situation in this feisty clip that riled many up.
7. Finally, The Brothers Reacted to Reactions… in a sad ‘n angry video posted today
They posted the video above today (Jan 31), and the brothers stress that they don’t intend to block all reaction videos. However based on the thumbs down, it appears not to have been well received.
The brothers also issued a clarifying message that seemed to back off the original interpretation of their video (source: original video description and blog): “We do not hold a copyright on reaction videos overall. No one can…. 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.”
So how did YOU react?