Fine Brothers History Of Overaggressive Behavior Doomed Their Plan; But Hopefully Others Will Revive The Good Parts

from the there-really-were-some-good-parts dept

I kind of figured a lot of people would disagree with my post yesterday, in which I noted that the underlying idea behind what the Fine Brothers were trying to do in helping to support fans in making their own versions of the various “React” programs was actually a good idea. The point was that the idea behind it was actually pretty good. A big brand/entertainment property encouraging fans to make their own versions of their program, helping them with additional support, promoting those fan videos and helping them make money — in exchange for a cut of the revenue — remains a cool idea. Unfortunately, the idea came from a company that had a really bad history of overly aggressive behavior in taking down content, deleting negative comments and ridiculously and petulantly claiming that anything remotely similar to what they did was somehow unfair. The examples of them whining about Buzzfeed and Ellen having similar segments was particularly galling. On top of that, the trademarking of various terms, including the very generic “React” really pushed things in the wrong direction.

Many of you insisted that it was impossible to separate out these actions from the underlying idea of supporting fan videos — and you’re probably right. It’s good to see that the Fine Brothers have now completely backed down from the plan, shutting down React World and announcing that they’ve decided to drop all of their trademark claims. On top of that they’ve agreed to drop all of their ContentID claims on YouTube. At this point, that was the only thing they really could do, and it was clearly the right move. Their history of overly aggressive behavior really made it impossible to do something else.

But… I’m hoping that people can still separate out the core idea that was there behind React World, and distance it from the fact that it was being put in place by people who had too much bad history to make it work. I still think that it would be great if other big brands recognized the value in freely supporting fans in making their own fan works, and even allowing them to monetize those works. Right now, fan homages to books, TV shows, movies and more live in a nebulous world in which, if they get too big, or even try to make any money, the companies behind the brands often shut them down completely. If you want to do something professional — such as that big Star Trek Fan Film that is currently facing a lawsuit — it’s basically impossible. And that’s a shame.

But imagine if some of these larger entities took the same approach as the key parts of the Fine Bros plan: allowing anyone to make stuff, even providing them with additional assets including tools, graphics, guidelines, etc. And then even saying that they’ll help support and promote the best ones, in exchange for a cut of the profits? It could really lead to some cool new creativity from fans and more closely attach those fans to the originals. It’s that underlying idea that I found intriguing from what the Fine Brothres had put together — without recognizing how incredibly imperfect the Fine Brothers were as the individuals to deliver that message. So it’s good that the Fine Brothers have recognized their past errors and backed down on basically all of their more egregious moves (not sure about their aggressive comment deletion stuff, though). But I hope that this doesn’t doom any other larger entertainment property from entertaining ideas around supporting fans creating their own works, without upfront licensing fees.

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Comments on “Fine Brothers History Of Overaggressive Behavior Doomed Their Plan; But Hopefully Others Will Revive The Good Parts”

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Scote (profile) says:

“Fine Brothers History Of Overaggressive Behavior Doomed Their Plan”

No, their plan was doomed because there was little, if any, value added by them.

Anyone can make a react video. They didn’t invent the idea or the format or the name. On the other hand, strong branding can be used to sell people stuff, even water. However, allowing **everybody and anybody** to “license” the Fine Brothers brand by giving them a 30%-50% revenue cut as part of the Fine Brothers channel would dilute the brand and throw those same everbodies and anybodies into a giant pool, not much different than the one they were already in. So, all the value really went to the Fine Brothers.

I’m a big fan of TechDirt and the ethos it not only espouses but tries to follow, however your earlier post lauding the Fine Brothers, and this one trying to save face/dig yourself deeper into the hole you started, are in the wrong direction, and clearly and unambiguously so. While I appreciate your willingness to question the wisdom of crowds, in this case the facts are all on the side of the crowd.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

heh, ninj, think you need to back the outrage bus up a little, and let scote roll out from under…
pretty much think scote did address the scheme itself, and i agree in most respects…

AND, of course it has to ‘be about the fine bros’; again, that is part and parcel of the techdirtia worldview: tend your rep, and your rep will tend to you…
(the corollary is obvious)

WHOEVER it is: T-rump could say he is all for puppies and rainbows, and i am IMMEDIATELY wondering what the hell is wrong with puppies and rainbows now, BECAUSE of the source and his reputation, past acts and misdeeds…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

First, I think it was a good idea and FineBros did a terrible implementation of it. I don’t know what the youtube income rate is for viewership but I would sacrifice 40% of my viewership income if it would increase my chances of being seen. Currently if I submitted anything, I would get 100% of $0. If I signed up with FineBros and managed to make $10 from my video using their brand, that is $6 I would have never made. I see it the same way I see how Steam works with indie games. Steam doesn’t instantly go out and start DMCAing all Indie game developers and forcing them to use their platform through.

Ninja (profile) says:

The idea is plain awesome. If there is a decent idea, why DMCA the hell out of it? Support it, endorse it, make money on it and make the ones behind the idea make money. There was this HD remake of Final Fantasy 7 that Square shut down. Even though some fans would pay a kidney for it. The Star Trek fan fiction that was shot down recently. Heck, there are PLENTY of examples.

The thing is, where the most reasonable ones among us see opportunities, the old, scared ones in power see threat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Disagreed with the post the other day–as was mentioned in the OP here the Fine Bros are probably the wrong messengers for this given their history and protectionist bent. However, using this as a vehicle for major franchises to promote and benefit from fan works does sound appealing. However, the bigger issue is what major entertainment franchise is willing to cede the brand control that comes along with sanctioning fan works? That is why we currently at best get franchises that look the other way regarding fan works. Even if a major entertainment franchise does embrace such a model, I fear that they would place strict restrictions on what fan works were acceptable in order to preserve their control over the brand image of their franchise.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's been said before...

I kind of figured a lot of people would disagree with my post yesterday, in which I noted that the underlying idea behind what the Fine Brothers were trying to do in helping to support fans in making their own versions of the various “React” programs was actually a good idea.

The same holds true for Socialism, Monarchies, & what-ever other Religious, Economic, or Political ideology you can crap out of your mouth.

At the end of the day, just about any set of rules might be a good idea so long as the rules are overseen by “The Good Guys”. Well guess what? Good Guys do not seek power and even less so seek to create “Kingmaker Rules” the way IP laws do.

At the end of the day good will must be judged by the fruits of its labor and not by the words decorating its doorway The not so “Fine Brothers” have proven that they make poor stewards of IP concepts/rights and do not deserve any respect.

The only laws worth writing are those that are written to prevent those in power from abusing that power… ya know, kinda like the constitution that is being shit all over now and generally ignored by like… EVERYONE?

Until IP law changes, it is not even safe to allow anyone to obtain a trademark of the likes of the one discussed here!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: It's been said before...

Sigh. By your logic, let’s not try anything because people may be bad. The focus of this and the other article is the very idea of collaboration with the fans. Detach yourself from everything else and the idea is simply awesome. Can be badly implemented yes but at the very last it is a path people can follow even in the current DMCA mess. Fuck, Hitler was an asshole but he did have good animal protection laws in place. The fact that it was the Nazi regime does not automatically make every thing they tried wrong or immoral. Be critical people, separate emotions from hard facts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's been said before...

You completely missed the boat. Not even sure you saw it as it passed by. Nothing in my logic said not try anything. I said until the laws change the only result is bad, as proven by pretty much history.

We are moving to a future where technology is very quickly revealing that mankind must dispense with things like IP law, money, & measurements of success. Mankind will simply never get rid of the caste system despite its many forms.

Because there are people that THINK they should be at the top of the food chain (Clinton, Bush, Obama, the next president, & most other politicians), and people like you that think others need to be at the bottom… we may never see success, mankind is likely going to destroy itself.

History continually shows us that in the beginning that civilization comes together so that each one can benefit the group making humanity more and more successful and more viable… then comes the hubris over time… one or a select few person(s) thinking they should own it all start telling people how to live, what slice of the pie or scraps they deserve, apportioning great markers of wealth among the few eventually destroying it all. Earth is historically rich in destroyed nations!

IP law has been continually growing more draconian with each new law to the point where IP will be the cause of social/economic strife and subsequently war or insurrection. There is not a being walking upon this planet that should be allowed to have a patent, trademark, or copyright like these EVER!!!! This in no way prevents anyone from trying things, contrary to your small minds reasoning on the subject!

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

But… I’m hoping that people can still separate out the core idea that was there behind React World, and distance it from the fact that it was being put in place by people who had too much bad history to make it work.

Don’t get your hopes up too high. People always seem to have a hard time distinguishing between a bad idea and a bad implementation of a good idea. (Just look at how many people call Prohibition the former when it was clearly the latter, for example…)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not that I agree that he prohibition itself was a good idea, but it is pretty clear that the authorities activity in poisoning alcohol with Methanol so that people actually got sick and died from it would be a great example of what might be a good idea being terribly implemented.

Sure make something bad for you taste or smell nasty so that people will think its bad to have. We put the rotten egg smell in gas so people can know its there on purpose… this is a good idea. Now if we, instead, put an aerosol poison in it instead of give it a smell… that would be really bad idea.

Like all things, its not whether something can be used for good or not, that is completely up the person handling the situation… what needs to be done is have laws and processes that prevent abuse and sadly almost not a single fucking human being gives a damn about preventing corruption. We all like it, and we all love it… well as long as that abuse works in our favor. I give you politics as undeniable proof that humanity loves itself some corruption!

Scote (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So, not a great idea...

Not that I agree that he prohibition itself was a good idea, but it is pretty clear that the authorities activity in poisoning alcohol with Methanol so that people actually got sick and died from it would be a great example of what might be a good idea being terribly implemented.”

So, not an example of a good idea terribly implemented.

However, I do think that Mike has in the past emphasized the importance of execution over that of ideas – which i think is a great point to make in general, and about tech start ups in particular. Having an idea is not enough. Execution is almost everything. Clearly the Fine Bros. failed in the execution of their idea.

Deimal (profile) says:

All about monetization of others

I dunno Mike. I did some digging around yesterday and from what I could see the consensus seemed to be that the Fine Bros were basically looking to crowdsource the creation of content and monetize it, taking a 20-40% cut of the potential revenue (depending on which side it came from).

They wouldn’t really add anything to it, except maybe the brand name. Their FAQ stated that basically they would offer no legal support (e.g. Fair Use defense kind of stuff), the format is open and anyone can use it, so no value from providing guidance on the format. Pretty much saying copy our videos in other languages for us for free to start with, and we’ll keep 20-40% of the rev gen.

Sounds to me like they were offering very very little support to hopefully get enough hundreds of/thousands of content creators signing up for them that they could monetize at little to no cost for them (Fine Bros that is). That comes across to me as exploitative at best.

MCNs do *NOT* have a good reputation on YouTube, for good reason, and they weren’t even going to provide support like those. I think you are misinterpreting what they were actually planning to ‘offer’. I didn’t see them as offering much of anything.

While your fan-fic kind of side note about how that would be cool is a nice concept, it’s not what they were doing. They don’t have characters or a universe or set pieces or design staff to use or get help from. They basically having nothing from a creative standpoint to offer other creators, except a logo, maybe an intro sequence, and the opportunity to funnel them 20-40% of view revenue.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think what bothered me the most was the disingenuousness of it all. Now, maybe that’s been unfair. Maybe they really did mean it to a benefit to their fans. But one word in that initial announcement makes be believe otherwise. The word “legal.” They said essentially that now you could make “legal” react videos. That really makes me believe that they were sitting around lamenting about how all these other people, including big names like Ellen, were making money stealing their idea. So they decided to try and get some of the profit those people were making. But they knew that would be a bitter pill for most people to swallow, so they wrapped it in a false narrative that it was really this awesome thing that people should want to do. But they couldn’t mask their contempt, nor could they erase their previous actions well enough to stop people from seeing through the bullshit.

anony151 says:

false equivalence

You still seam to be arguing that removing arbitrary restrictions to innovation and creation is equivalent to fostering innovation and creativity. This is logically inconsistent.

It’s like saying that stopping chemotherapy allows for hair regrowth, therefore chemo is good for hair growth.

If the fine bro’s had any significant and legitimate unique IP maybe what you’re saying would make a bit more sense. (in an appeal to the lesser of evils type way). If they had a consistent ‘react’ character with unique, distinctive, and original traits that people where fans of and wanted to use…

Fan films/fiction is a very different topic then trademarking/patenting vague concepts, common use words, and common sense processes that have been used for decades- and then trying to claim that as a “brand” which you have exclusive rights to licence.

What exactly is the unique creation that they are “allowing” people to license? I’ve seen no reasonable explanation of what this is- graphics? theme music? Are they bartering access to their viewers through their channel? ..all these things would be legitimate and ethical- but despite their false claims, this is not what they where attempting to do.

The ability to weigh the value of an idea, or an aspect of an idea, without necessarily subscribing to it is a core tenant of intelligence; Regardless, when arguing for the lesser of evils, it’s important to acknowledge it in relevant context.

Current IP laws and standards are often recklessly ill-defined, implemented, and enforced- as is, they are more a threat to liberty, creativity and progress, then a protection; and they do far more to enrich and entrench the elite, then to protect the rights of the little guy. TD has been exploring topics and stories related to this for as long as I can remember, which is why it’s rather shocking to read articles like this here- articles which seam to miss or at least gloss over the core point/story. It feels to me as if you’ve lost sight of what really matters.

…you still have the best comment system on the internet though.

Digitari says:

This is not new...

Some 30 years ago I remember a series of Books written by fans. They were fantasy D&D type anthologies. The place names and Character traits were known (ie Ben is a thief, Amy is a barmaid, John is a soldier in the King’s army) the stories were submitted by fans, it was fantastic, but like I said that was 30 years ago…….

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Imagine "Let's Play World" with me.

If your a big player you have a following, and don’t need what “LPW” can do for you, but if you are working a genre that isn’t as popular or are just starting out I have a world to help you.

In return for sharing a portion of revenue with me, I direct viewers to you. I have information prepared about what makes a good let’s play video the tools & things you’ll want to consider. “LPW” is subdivided by genre, skill levels, and all sorts of demographic details to help viewers find your videos. As the “LPW” gets more popular “We” can speak with studios about getting games for you to play. If you get big enough to have your own following, we’ll miss you and hope you will keep in touch with us. There is so much content pouring onto the net crafting a good touchstone spot to start with helps everyone, and putting the time into keeping bad ones off the world but offering valid reasons of why it didn’t make the cut this time improves it even more.

That is what it could have been.

Not give us 20-40% and plaster our logo all over your videos or face the takedown monster & the “we own this” mentality of launching attacks on you.

The idea could be executed very well, as long as those in charge don’t get drunk with power.

Anonymous Coward says:

There was no intent to help the little guys. This was a monetization idea with “let’s help” as a cover.

If we set up a fake charity for kicked puppies but keep the money for ourselves, is this a “poor execution but the underlying idea is good” situation?

I fail to see how anyone thinks the Fine Bros main goal was to help anyone but themselves. Naive is the only thing that explains it. You’re wanting to see this conclusion, it supports ideas you’ve brought up for years but this not that.

This was outright a move to kill competition, lock in reaction videos to their brand, their control, and monetize the whole thing. Wrapping it in pretty words was just a way to pitch it to the public.

Megore says:

Communism looks good on paper too but in practice its anything but.

What they were trying to do is already being done, They were just setting up a MCN (Multi-Channel Network)

all MCNs make the “A big brand/entertainment property encouraging fans to make their own versions of their program, helping them with additional support, promoting those fan videos and helping them make money — in exchange for a cut of the revenue” claim.

But when it comes down to it MCNs skip all the way to the take a cut of revenue part and ignore the support stuff. Because once they get a large amount of people signed up they just can’t give you individual attention its impossible.

Mike you should really watch some youtubers who go through with the MCN stuff and explain it.

CharlieBrown says:

Doctor Who

Aparrently the team at “Doctor Who” are very encouraging of fan creation, as long as you are not selling unofficial merchandise (like clothes or TARDIS toys). There’s even a documentary of early 1980’s fan traded video tapings of “Doctor Who” episodes re-run overseas but not in the UK, on one of the DVD’s as an extra.

Whatever (profile) says:

I stayed out of the first part of this discussion, but I wanted to add some comment here, because the failure of this project really has little to do with WHO was running, rather about what it was and at what cost.

For me, this whole idea fails because the math was too easy to figure out, and it was too easy to see that someone was going to make a whole lot of something for doing a whole lot of nothing. People can easily figure out what Fine Bros (or whoever) were going to make a quite 20-40% for nothing more than curating and perhaps trading a few viewers around. Simply, the amount is greedy as f-ck. If they were doing it for 10%, or 5%… they likely would get more people on board. They aren’t adding enough to the situation to merit being a 1/3 partner on everything out there.

The idea isn’t terrible – the execution and the appearance of pure greed hurts it tremendously. Combine that with their less than sterling reputation, and you have everything you need to drive people away.

Anonymous Coward says:

This attempt had nothing to do with helping any fans create stuff. it was an attempt to profit off other people’s work using too general trademarks and the over-broad copyright provisions usually critiqued around here (and for good reason).

If they really wanted to help people create they’d start with Creative Commons licences and go from there.

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