Last week, Fine Brothers Entertainment announced it was launching a “React World” initiative to license the “various shows and trademarks” in its “React” franchise to creators around the world.
Their announcement created a widespread backlash that had everyone from YouTube creators to intellectual property experts contributing to the maelstrom of complaints. Faced with rapidly declining subscriber numbers (reports said they were losing as many as 10,000 subscribers an hour), the Fine Bros. announced late yesterday that they were discontinuing the program.
React World offered creators “ongoing production guidance, creative guidelines, format bibles, graphics and other resources so that producers can get started right away.” It might’ve been a sweet deal if, A) a react video amounted to much more than pointing a camera at someone looking at a video screen and recording their reactions to what they’re watching, and B) the Fine Bros. (Benny and Rafi Fine) had created the format.
With the React World program, it was like the Fine Bros. were offering the desert a cactus, then insisting it pay for permission to have sand.
Yes, The Fine Bros. have eleven shows based on the “react” model (“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”), but scores of other creators already make reaction videos.
“2 Girls 1 Cup” reaction videos have been around since 2007. The trademark application filed by Fine Brothers Properties, Inc. in July 2015 says the company began using the term for its productions in Oct. 2010.
The internet is rife with tales of “cease & desist” orders and video takedowns issued by the Fine Bros. in attempts to protect what they see as their legal right to the “react” concept, and the duo publicly complained when Ellen DeGeneres and BuzzFeed made react clips.
“On the date of publication, the public has 30 days to file an opposition,” Morrison wrote. “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.”
As it turns out, creators don’t have to worry. On Monday, Fine Bros. Industries filed for an express abandonment of its trademark claim, and the Fine Bros. posted an apology on Medium (a invite-only platform created by the two of the founders of Twitter where people can share stories and ideas) that read, in part:
“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.”
In the message, the Fine Bros. also pledged to “rescind all of our ‘React’ trademarks and applications.”
In addition to a reservoir of ill will, the Fine Bros. are now left with a new subgenre of react videos in which people watch their React World announcement and respond with anger and disgust.