[UPDATED] Chain Reaction: The Fine Brothers Saga

Published: February 2, 2016 8:38 AM /


Fine Brothers Entertainment Logo

Fine Brothers Entertainment has dropped all trademark claims to the "React" video format and will be shuttering its video line of the same name, according to the company's verified Twitter account and a statement released on Medium.

Social media was set afire when the company, most known for their series featuring kids reacting to retro electronics, announced a series of trademark applications.  These appeared to claim ownership of the popular and widespread "React format" with a wide variety of types such as "Elders React", "Kids React", and even just "React".  The inclusion of the lone word as a separate trademark claim led to particularly vitriolic mockery, as well as memes aplenty.

Combined with several attempts at enforcing these claims using YouTube's Content ID system, it was perhaps inevitable that the hashtag #UnsubTheFineBros would come into being. Hundreds of thousands elected to do just that, removing their subscriptions to Fine Brothers' YouTube channel in short order.


What had actually happened was Fine Brothers' attempt to create "React World", a licensing program whereby content creators would give a share of their income in exchange for rights to use structural elements and assets from the company's popular line.  But concerns abounded regarding the potential for serious abuses, which the Content ID claims only inflamed.  YouTube itself was already the center of controversy over its algorithm-managed copyright enforcement system, which often seems capricious and easily abused.  This worry was exacerbated to fever-pitch when both Brothers openly demanded their viewers call out "ripoffs" of "their" format - such as that used by TV personality Ellen Degeneres for her own "React" segment, which had borne no resemblance to the Fine Brothers' format.

From Reddit to Twitter, public reaction to the scheme was decidedly negative, despite the efforts of cooler heads.  Even a law firm weighed in on the subject.  Comparisons to Sony's try at trademarking "Let's Play" were raised as well.

Titular company heads Benny and Rafi Fine then attempted to clarify their positions with a short video (which they have since taken down along with other React World related videos).  Too short, really.  The furor had been caused by concern and confusion over legal matters, which neither Fine discussed at any length. Instead, they went with smiles and reassurances.  It was so non-specific, Rafi directed viewers to "go watch our videos" to find out what assets the licensing system would allow use of.  Many felt that it all smacked of a huge shakedown.

Subscriptions went into free-fall.  At one point, a Twitch channel dedicated to nothing more than watching a real-time update on the numbers had over six thousand viewers.  At the time of this writing, YouTube's official count for Fine Brothers' subscribers shows just over 13.8 million, an overall loss numbering not just tens but hundreds of thousands.

In this new announcement via Medium, Fine Brothers have now stated that Content ID claims will be released, that they will be rescinding all React-related trademarks and applications, and that their "React World" program will be discontinued.  They also acknowledged the concerns about trust and potential abuses head-on, stating clearly that these concerns are why they are dropping their claims altogether. 

Reactions to Fine Brothers' reaction to public reaction to their React World concept (say that five times fast) have been guardedly appreciative:


What do you think of all this?  Let us know in the comments below!

Many thanks to Kindra Pring, for helping with the initial legwork on this article.

[UPDATE]: an editing error initially claimed that "a million" people had already unsubscribed.  Currently, the number is just over 300,000.  We apologize for that and have corrected the error.

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