Why Is Everyone So Mad at the Fine Brothers?
This probably isn’t the way the Benny and Rafi Fine expected their big announcement to go.
If you’re wondering why much of the internet seems to be yelling at the Fine Brothers right now, it’s because they just announced a new plan to have fans around the world make their own “React” videos – you know, things like “kids react to the first iPod” or “grandparents react to the latest Nicki Minaj video” – with a percentage of the ad revenue from those fan-made videos going to Fine Brothers Entertainment:
The company’s React World will aggregate videos in a channel to launch later this year to promote, support and feature fan-produced programming based on their shows, which revolve around showing people reacting to viral YouTube videos. […] Besides fostering a fan community, FBE wants to be able to monetize “React”-style videos through its own channels rather than having that content appear on unaffiliated outlets.
This move follows Fine Brothers Entertainment filing for trademark protection on the word “React” with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in July.
In their announcement video, they compared the move to television licensing, like Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent, where the same format is created in multiple locations. Rafi Fine also made some grand claims about how this would affect the future of entertainment:
“We strive with React to making episodes that will not just be interesting and entertaining now, but live on forever as a time capsule even a hundred years from now, that people can look back and see what various generations were saying about culture and the issues of our time.”
But critics over at Reddit saw things in a completely different light.
“I’m selling licenses for unboxing videos,” said Reddit user Mohammed420blazeit. “You can join my unboxing family by giving me 30% of all your ad revenue. In return I won’t sue you and I will give you advice.”
“Their format is so basic that it’s unfair of them to claim it as their own,” said 916expat. “How else could a reaction video be formatted? That’s like saying everyone who makes a ‘Let’s Play’ video is copying PewDiePie.”
Many are also convinced that the Fine Bros will abuse YouTube and Google’s copyright system to bully small creators and have anything resembling a reaction video taken down, so they can essentially have a monopoly on the entire idea.
YouTuber Cr1TiKaL uploaded a defiant “reaction video” to the Fine Bros’ announcement, tearing into them for claiming that other companies and channels – Buzzfeed, for example – were ripping them off by copying their videos.
“That’s pretty hypocritical of you to say, considering that reaction videos were a thing well before you two started uploading to YouTube. In fact, that shit goes way back to the 80s. So to stand there and act like you created the reaction video is just plain wrong.
But the Fine Brothers and their defenders insist that this is all about building a community and benefitting YouTube culture.
In the wake of the controversy, the Fine Bros posted this lengthy response on their Facebook page and tried to address concerns in the comment section (and as you can imagine, it’s kind of a dumpster fire right now):
“We are not going after/shutting down/sueing anyone who makes reaction based content. We are licensing our specific shows and their structural elements.”
The Fine Brothers’ also posted another video trying to set the record straight, but the response to that hasn’t been much better.
Our host Ava Gordy has the latest details, including one instance when the Fine Bros sent their fans after the Ellen Show for a segment called “Ellen Introduces Kids to the Technology of Yesterday,” even though it didn’t use the Fine Bros format or have “React” in the title. Not a great look.