In a move that has stunned the vlogger world but gone criminally unnoticed in the mainstream media, massively popular YouTube duo The Fine Brothers have seemingly tried to copyright ‘reaction videos’ – essentially laying claim to an entire, long-running online genre.
“Whoa, slow down there. What are you talking about?”
Let’s backtrack. Some might not think of YouTube as a particularly fruitful entertainment platform, but over the last few years the video-streaming site’s popularity has sky rocketed in terms of everyday use. On demand entertainment is all the rage, and the biggest YouTube channels have thrived. One of these thriving channels is run by The Fine Brothers.
With comedy vlogs largely based on goading reactions out of children and old people (which is much less creepy than it sounds), The Fine Brothers built up a subscriber base of 14 million regular viewers.
Well done guys!
Unfortunately though, recent controversy has caused the channel to start leaking subscribers faster than the Donald Trump Appreciation Society, prompting one creative viewer to create this handy live count of their following, slumping second by second.
It sounds much more complicated than it is, so here’s our handy guide to everything that’s happening with The Fine Brothers. But at no point are we claiming that it’s a ‘reaction’ blog – better to be safe than sorry.
What’s all the drama about?
— Zack (@FaurIin) January 31, 2016
Basically, the whole ‘kids react’ or ‘grandparents react’ or ‘my goldfish reacts’ format of videos was how The Fine Brothers really developed a following. Their popularity exploded after they adopted this style of humour, and everyone was happy, laughing away at young kids not knowing what a Game Boy is.
We’re chuckling away, they’re getting paid – everyone is happy.
However, the YouTube organisation managed to hack pretty much everyone off a few days ago, when they revealed their new plan to trademark terms such as ‘react’, and ‘allow’ others to license their format for a fee/profit percentage.
Here’s the announcement of their big new initiative:
The site has received a whole load of criticism for their ostensibly overbearing business model:
— Kaiser (@IAmKaiserz) January 31, 2016
The Fine Brothers have recently attempted to trademark the concept of a ‘reaction video’, a format that has existed for many years, long before the duo earned their place on the ‘massive youtubers’ list, even going as far as to issue copyright takedown claims against other video makers for using the word ‘react’ in their video title – or, ironically, issue such claims against people reacting to Fine Bros footage.
The internet isn’t used to being restricted in their content and creativity, and people are not happy.
Why is everyone angry?
— Alex (@UhOhGamer) January 31, 2016
On the surface of it, it’s clear to see why people are angry. Essentially, content makers are being told that their creativity is being restricted – and not by necessity or ‘the greater good’ or any other jargon-like excuse they normally give out. It’s being restricted by two people.
The fact that The Fine Brothers didn’t invent the idea of the ‘reaction video’ – although it was popularised heavily after their rise – is cause enough for concern.
As far as content makers are concerned, these are just two dudes claiming that you’re not allowed to use the words ‘kids’ and ‘react’ in the same video title, or that video will be forcibly removed – and that’s aggravating enough.
For the viewers though, the problem is deeper than that. YouTube has become a format for free thinking, fun, alternative media development and singing goats.
This whole ‘trademarking something we didn’t really invent’ thing is a serious issue for long-time users of the site, and highlights, once again, the rising level of control our ‘free thinking’ web hangout now has over it.
It’s like we were all having a great house party, when Anne Widdecombe stormed in and forced everyone to play pass the parcel – only there wasn’t any sweets in the middle of the parcel. Just more brown paper.
Oh, and a recent video from the Fine Bros attempting to ‘clarify’ their position, has gone down like a lead balloon:
Reacting to the reaction debacle
No worries though, because rather than cower in the daunting face of entertainment legalities, the web culture sphere has, in broad terms, laughed the lads out of the blogosphere.
— Jason Garber (@Jason_Garber) February 1, 2016
Ironically, the term ‘my reaction to the Fine Brothers’ is massively popular on YouTube at the minute, making this whole react-video crusade rather moot.
Sure, us lowly viewers may not understand the intricacies of what the Fine Brothers are really trying to do, but as far as we are all concerned, it seems completely unjustified, and their hubris has been met with social media-mocking and scathing YouTube… well, reactions.
Non more genius, than this gem.
Of course, the lads themselves will try to tell us that they are ‘protecting their brand’, or whatever, but realistically, you just can’t go round telling people that you alone have the right to film a teenager reacting to a funny video. You just can’t.
Once you start flagging videos with copyright claims for specific words used in titles, which has happened since their announcement, according to other video makers, it starts to become a serious issue.
The trademark claims are still underway, and have been met with heavy legal resistance. For all the legal properties of the case, and the opinion of a professional lawyer, check out this blog.
It seems like the vlogging partners will have some difficulty forcing this one through, unless the American legal system has adopted a weird king of ‘like button’ system for the jury to decide with.
This copyright business may or may not materialise, but regardless of the result, it’s a foreboding sign of the increasing amount of control YouTube bigwig’s are attempting to enforce on their competition.
Time will tell if the streaming site will continue down this road, but if it follows in this vein, we’re going to end up with a significantly reduced catalogue of free videos to watch, until eventually we’re left with a short clip of a dog falling asleep while stood up.
To be fair, we could watch this everyday. Let’s just hope nobody trademarks the idea of ‘dogs’, or even worse, the entire animal kingdom.