If you’re a person with regular access to the internet, you’ve probably watched a “_______ React!” video from The Fine Brothers. We’ve shared a good number of them here at Uproxx. Most of them involve today’s damn unappreciative kids reacting with befuddlement to stuff us Gen-Xers/Millennials liked when we were kids, but they’ve also spun off into Elders React, YouTubers React and a million other variations. The videos are fun enough, but they’re nothing terribly unique. People reacting to things is pretty much what YouTube was built on (along with skateboarding bulldogs, of course).
Despite not having a particularly unique product, The Fine Brothers recently announced they were going to monetize and license their “_______ React!” videos, and as part of that, they had filed a trademark for the word “React.” Basically, the React World partnership program would have let anybody make an officially-branded React video in exchange for giving The Fine Brothers a hefty chunk of the action (at least a third of the revenue produced by the video). It was also strongly implied that those who didn’t team up with The Fine Bros. might see their reaction videos removed from YouTube. While The Fine Bros. tried to pitch all of this in a positive light, the underlying message was fairly clear – if you want to do Fine-style reaction videos, you better get under the React World umbrella.
Needless to say, the internet’s reaction was swift and harsh. YouTubers posted numerous unkind reaction videos of their own (the funniest, by Mega 64, is at the top of this post) and The Fine Bros. began to shed YouTube followers at a fairly rapid rate.
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 Fine Brothers are even giving up the trademarks they successfully filed for before this all blew up, including “Kids React,” “Elders React” and many more. Of course, nobody noticed or cared about those trademarks, it was only when they tried to copyright “React” that people got mad. This is just the latest reminder that it’s always a bad idea to try to trademark a single, commonly-used word. Whether it’s the Candy Crush folks trying to trademark “Candy” or Google trying to trademark “Glass,” it usually doesn’t go well.
Honestly, I don’t hold any ill-will against The Fine Brothers. Again, their videos are decent, and everybody makes mistakes. Sometimes really big mistakes. Hopefully their next React video isn’t just them crying as they watch their YouTube subscriber count trickle away.