The Fine Bros Plan Is Actually Pretty Cool If You Get Past How They Announced It

from the ok,-hear-me-out dept

Since late last week, we've been getting lots of inbound requests and submissions to write about The Fine Brothers, and the claims that they're somehow trying to "control" or "claim ownership" on the concept of "react videos." Almost all of the inbound requests are expecting us to trash the Fine Brothers for this apparent attempt to "own" something that can't be owned, and we're going to disappoint them. Having gone through all of the details, it actually looks like the Fine Brothers were legitimately trying to do something that's actually... kind of cool. Now, before you rip off my head as well, please wait and hear me out. I will say that they could have been a bit more tactful about it, but I don't think they deserve the intense hatred they're getting.

There are lots of details here, but it starts with the Fine Brothers, Benny and Rafi, who have built up a rather impressive empire in creating amusing internet videos. They have a bunch of shows, many of which are crazy popular. Among the most well-known is probably the "Kids React" series, in which they film kids reacting to things (often "old" things that the kids may not be familiar with, frequently pop culture related). Personally, I like the one where kids react to seeing the very first iPod. Warning, if you're older than, like, 10, this video may make you feel really old.

Anyway... this latest mess kicked off with a YouTube video where Benny and Rafi Fine act as if they've just cured cancer or something, they're so excited for what they're putting out into the world -- a way for anyone to "license" their various show "formats," like Kids React:
And, right off the bat, I can totally understand why people were at least a little concerned about this. We've all spent enough time dealing with big successful entities using "licensing" to mean "we're going to stop you from doing stuff unless you pay us." And, honestly, the video above does feel a little weird with the two of them acting as if they've just done the most amazing thing in the world for their fans. I think the other problem with the way they announced this is that they've probably been so deep in the Southern California/entertainment world where questions about "licensing formats" for TV shows is something that's understood by everyone, that they just used the same terminology, without realizing how that would play with basically everyone else in the world, especially among their fan base. Again, to most people "licensing" means taking someone else's money and "formats" sounds like they're claiming ownership of any kind of reaction videos.

But, having gone through the video, the details, more details, the FAQs and their hurried attempts to defend themselves, I actually do think they were trying to do something that is kind of cool. But they got seriously tripped up by the way they presented it.

Here's what they probably should have said they were trying to do: "Hey, everyone, we know we've got lots of enthusiastic fans who love our react videos and want to make their own. And now we're going to help you make those videos, help promote them and even help you make some money off of them! Yay! Isn't that exciting?"

Here's what they said instead: "Hey, everyone, we're going to let you license our "React" intellectual property. Also, people who copy our videos are bad people, but now you can do it if you license from us! Isn't that totally exciting?"

Here's what everyone heard: "Hey, everyone, we own "reaction videos" and now if you want to make your own, you have to give us a cut or we'll shut you down, because you're bad! Isn't that exciting?"

The problem was that they focused on the mechanism ("licensing!") rather than the benefits. They've been pretty clear that they're not looking to shut down anyone. And all the claims from people saying that they're claiming "ownership" of reaction videos is wrong. Yes, they've trademarked some stuff, but trademarks are not copyrights or patents. And, yes, while there is trademark abuse, there's no indication that what they're trying to do here is abusive. Actually, it looks like a pretty good idea.

They know that lots of people make similar reaction videos. And a lot of those people are their fans. But rather than shut them down and rather than demand big licensing fees, they created this (somewhat unique) program, where they're giving a license to anyone who wants it, and with that license, you get a variety of benefits, including graphic elements and (importantly) the ability to have the Fine Brothers help promote and monetize your videos. They take a cut (looks like a pretty small percentage actually), but that should be worth it for many people, who probably wouldn't have many opportunities to monetize the videos by themselves.

So, rather than use intellectual property to limit people (especially fans), this effort looks like it's designed to do the opposite. It's offering ways for fans who make their own videos to be considered "official" videos. Imagine, for example, if LucasFilm did the same thing, giving a sort of stamp of approval for people making fan Star Wars films -- and would even let them release them, just as long as LucasFilm got a small cut? That would be kind of cool.

Now, there is some, potentially valid, concern that the Fine Brothers have attempted to trademark some of the names of their shows, and those trademarks could potentially be abused. Additionally, the whole "people are stealing our formats!" claim in the video above just comes across as silly. Finally, there are at least some examples of absolutely stupid takedowns that may have been made by the Fine Brothers or by people working for them. And those are all certainly issues to be concerned about -- and the Fine Brothers should have perhaps realized that those issues were going to come up, especially the way they presented this.

But, going back to the actual licensing program, it's not that crazy by itself. A trademark is pretty limited in what it can prevent here, and it really doesn't look like they're trying to take down generic reaction videos -- and the fact that they've publicly insisted they're not intending to do so would clearly hurt any actual attempt to do so later. The takedown pointed out above was stupid, and pretty clearly fair use, but was using the Fine Brothers' original work (it was a video of him reacting to one of their Kids React videos). Again, it was a really really dumb takedown that they shouldn't have done, but is a separate issue from this licensing program for people creating something different entirely.

Similarly, a lot of the criticism is that there's nothing special or unique in "reaction videos" and that plenty of others have done them, even predating the Fine Brothers. That's true -- and this is where the misunderstanding of "format" outside of the cozy Southern California entertainment world comes in. What they're talking about is building off of the larger reputation associated with the shows themselves -- something the Fine Brothers actually did build up beyond just generic reaction videos -- including a general setup and script for how each of the videos goes along with the graphical elements that accompany the shows. Most other reaction videos don't follow that same format -- with multiple people looking at a laptop or a piece of technology, with the quick cuts between different folks, and the captions and explanation bubbles and whatnot. I'm not saying any of that is brilliant, but it is the kind of thing that, when packaged together, could certainly be a valid "format" for a show.

Again, if you separate it out, overall, this actually looks like a pretty cool idea for how an entertainment brand could (and probably should!) embrace fan culture and fans trying to build on their work. But, it was presented slightly awkwardly, with a focus on terminology not well understood outside of the entertainment business, and in a world where people are (so rightfully!) concerned about abusing intellectual property. And, the fact that the Fine Brothers have apparently done some stupid takedowns doesn't help at all. Mix in a bit of Reddit mob behavior and you have a recipe for a massive overreaction.

Filed Under: fan films, fans, fine brothers, kids react, licensing, react world, show formats, youtube videos
Companies: fine brothers


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 11:53am

    What's the going rate for "these shitty people are actually really awesome" articles?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bri (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 11:55am

    What makes me concerned is the way they've been doing damage control. Deleting whole swaths of comments, and getting videos that are "reacting" to their announcement taken down seems a bit dictator-like to me. It's possible the videos were dmca'd by another entity, but it seems unlikely.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:03pm

      Re:

      What makes me concerned is the way they've been doing damage control. Deleting whole swaths of comments, and getting videos that are "reacting" to their announcement taken down seems a bit dictator-like to me. It's possible the videos were dmca'd by another entity, but it seems unlikely.

      Yup. On that I agree totally. But as for the original plan: that was actually a good idea. Reacting badly to people isn't helping though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 11:56am

    > Benny and Rafi, who have built up a rather impressive empire in creating amusing internet videos. They have a bunch of shows, many of which are crazy popular. Among the most well-known is probably the "Kids React" series, in which they film kids reacting to things

    Wow, such groundbreaking stuff! Truly amazing stuff. Videos of kids reacting things is the best thing short of curing cancer for sure!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:02pm

      Re:

      Wow, such groundbreaking stuff! Truly amazing stuff. Videos of kids reacting things is the best thing short of curing cancer for sure!

      You do realize we made basically the same jokes in our post as well? So not sure what you accomplish by saying the same thing in attempting to mock us.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:01pm

    Didn't Bill Cosby do "kids react" stuff way before these assmunchers?

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:04pm

      Re:

      Didn't Bill Cosby do "kids react" stuff way before these assmunchers?


      And lots of others too. But they're not claiming ownership over the concept of kids reacting to stuff. They're just talking about the specific setup of *their show alone*. It's different.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:55pm

      Re:

      Yes but they were reacting to drugs :(

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Megore, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:04pm

    They feel so entitled to their “format” that they think anything remotely similar to one of their “formats” is infringing on their intellectual property. They even threatened ELLEN for stealing their “format”. Ellen’s video is nothing like anything the Fine Bros do, she’s just showing kids on her show some old technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CMS9xnBRkc They made a facebook post calling Ellen thieves and bullies stealing and not respecting the Fine Bros. They’ve deleted that post but their tweet still exists
    https://twitter.com/thefinebros/status/513061415016341504

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:13pm

      Re:

      hey feel so entitled to their “format” that they think anything remotely similar to one of their “formats” is infringing on their intellectual property. They even threatened ELLEN for stealing their “format”. Ellen’s video is nothing like anything the Fine Bros do, she’s just showing kids on her show some old technology:

      Yup. Agree that was stupid and wrong. But separate from their offer to help others do videos.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mat (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:38pm

        Re: Re:

        I hate to say this Mike, but I think you are one of the few that sees "We are licensing our stuff" and "she didn't license it and is thus to be mocked/threatened/etc" as being seperate issues. It infact sounds a lot like, well, what all the other license-holders we -normally- complain about.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mat (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:22pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          ALso, the fact that the FAQ keeps changing on what is/is not available is not helping matters any.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            W Klink (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:35pm

            Ellen

            It's still really not at all clear to me what their "format" is or how it's in any way unique. Even in their call to attack Ellen, they acknowledged that she may not have "known" that she was copying them but that she needed to be "educated."

            I understand the idea that you can have a trademark on certain elements of a show, so while anyone can do a "talent show," having the judges turn their chairs when they like you or stand up and hit a gong if they don't might be elements that can be trademarked. But showing kids something and asking them questions? That is so obvious that Art Linkletter was doing it on the radio in 1945.

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      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:01pm

        Re: Re:

        "Agree that was stupid and wrong. But separate from their offer to help others do videos."

        I don't think you can seperate the two that much. I know very little about the history of these guys, but it looks like they've engaged in a lot of stupid activities both before and after this announcement.

        This tells me that there is a very high likelihood that they will continue to engage in stupid activities into the future, only now they're offering a way to get on their "we won't mess with you" list.

        It smells a bit like a protection racket.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:28pm

      Re:

      http://onehallyu.com/topic/103241-fine-brothers-call-ellen-out-kinda-ridiculous/
      And this facebook post.
      What you are basically saying is the idea is good so it's going to be used only for good, when the records show that they are entitled bullies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonandonandon, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:07pm

    It would probably have been a lot better for them to simply trademark the phrases, understand that it's owned by the community, and essentially give it away in a way like Tesla did with their patents.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:09pm

    Still Bullshit!

    There is nothing being done here that has not already been done on TV in some format or fashion by others historically and right now, aside from these guys

    How can a format be considered a trademark? This world is going fucking insane with IP laws to the point that sanctions, economic distress, & WARS are going to be fought over them!

    How about I file for a trademark explaining the format in which I do something like say... eat my food? Pay up all you mutha's cause I wanna be RICH!!!

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:18pm

    Yes, if you ignore their past actions, all context, the way they announced it, and their ridiculous trademark applications, what they're doing is super cool! Mental gymnastics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Deimal (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:19pm

    There's an attorney who has posted a bit about representing some YT content creators (pro bono) to oppose the trademark applications here:

    http://ryanmorrisonlaw.com/attorneys-react-the-fine-bros-react-trademark/

    His react(ion) is not good towards the Fine Bros

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  • identicon
    Megore, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:24pm

    Its not just the way they presented it its also their past actions, to me they looking more like bullies.

    https://twitter.com/thefinebros/status/572989392672837633

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:28pm

      Re:

      Its not just the way they presented it its also their past actions, to me they looking more like bullies.

      https://twitter.com/thefinebros/status/572989392672837633


      Yup. And I have no issue with them having to answer to bullshit whines like those. And I'd argue that that past history is now coming back to haunt them.

      But that doesn't change that the *underlying idea* of helping fans create, promote and make money from making their own versions is a pretty cool concept.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Deimal (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:33pm

        Re: Re:

        It may be, but does it necessitate gaining a legal monopoly over broad and general sounding terms already in very common use across Youtube and other sites?

        To me, those trademarks are not necessary for them to accomplish the goal they set out to do. It could also be done under a Fine Bros Entertainment brand and trademark, not necessarily the generic "Kids React", "Teens React", etc.

        The only benefit I can see from them owning trademarks on those, my opinion, very broad terms, is to shut down or claim ad revenue from others.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:38pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Bing to the Fucking O!!!!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Agree with this--addressing these points seem to be what the original article is missing. Hope to see followup and further discussion from Mike about this.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:21pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It may be, but does it necessitate gaining a legal monopoly over broad and general sounding terms already in very common use across Youtube and other sites?

          Nope. It does not necessitate that. But again, you're focused on something different: the decision to trademark, rather than what I'm pointing out, which is the underlying idea of making it easier for fans to make, promote and monitor "fan" versions of what they do.

          Yes, I think over trademarking is a problem. And I think the Fine Bros are pushing it on that.

          But that's *different* than the idea of supporting fan vids.

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          • icon
            Mat (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Except for the fact that those trademarks are the only reason this 'help' would be needed...

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Deimal (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:27pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I don't think people are reacting negatively to the proposed concept of...licensing I guess, the format and supporting independent content creation. I think people are reacting negatively to the trademarks Mike.

            It seems to me you're seeing one half, the proposal, as a good thing, and attributing reactions to that (the licensing/format scheme), while ignoring the other half, the IP half, which is what it seems most people are reacting negatively to.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:31pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              It seems to me you're seeing one half, the proposal, as a good thing, and attributing reactions to that (the licensing/format scheme), while ignoring the other half, the IP half, which is what it seems most people are reacting negatively to.

              Fair enough. I just think that, in plenty of other contexts, this kind "feel free to use our stuff, and in exchange we'll help you do more and make some money" should be seen as a good thing. I'd love it if other shows/brands did the same thing.

              Again, imaging being able to make money off your Star Wars fan film, if you just had to agree to kick back 20% to LucasFilm. That's kinda neat.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Deimal (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:46pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I don't see fan fic and this being equivalent though. Fan fic by definition is built on the foundation of someone else's characters/world. That's not what Fine Bros are engaging in here.

                I look at it more as the local CBS affiliate trademarking "Eyewitness News" and doing local news, sports news, weather in that order, and trying to use that to stifle competition from the local ABC affiliate "Eyewitness News" in another city.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                John Fenderson (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:09pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "I just think that, in plenty of other contexts, this kind "feel free to use our stuff, and in exchange we'll help you do more and make some money" should be seen as a good thing."

                I think that is a good thing, but from reading and watching what the Fine Brothers have been saying about it, I have the distinct impression that this point is the least interesting to them. More interesting to them is to have some sort fo club they can beat everyone else with.

                I may be entirely wrong about this, but that is entirely how they come off when they speak.

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              • identicon
                Megore, 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:23pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Game Grumps do this with their fan animations.

                "While initially Game Grumps Animateds were treated as hobby projects, currently Arin and the rest of the Grumps commission animators to create content specifically for the Game Grumps channel where they can reach a wider audience, usually from animators who have created fan animations before on their own time. Ross has previously discussed that Youtube's monetization systems make it unsustainable to create channels based entirely on short, infrequently posted animations, so by uploading to the Game Grumps channel itself they are able to monetize the content effectively."

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              • identicon
                Adrian Lopez, 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:56pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "... feel free to use our stuff ..."

                It's the "our stuff" part people have a problem with. Also the implicit "on our terms."

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:56am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You used several forms of the word 'react.' Please license or be swatted.

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      • identicon
        Megore, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:48pm

        Re: Re:

        Doesn't really sound that interesting, isn't this what big corporations do or franchises.

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      • identicon
        Claire Ryan, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:02am

        But...

        But it's not a pretty cool concept, Mike. It's basically a terrible concept on its face.

        They were going to give a license to anyone, with no quality control or sanity checks. Even if we believe the best of them, the net result of this is thousands and thousands of mediocre reaction videos with the Fine Bros media assets. There is no possible way that they can do promotion for all of them, so how does that benefit the Youtubers who join up? They're giving up 30-50% of their revenue cut, last I heard, for the right to join a lottery that may give them some extra exposure at some point. And in the meantime, the Fine Bros will make a LOT of money off the small amounts from so many little channels.

        Other Youtubers are rightfully pissed off about this because there is no upside to signing. The reaction format is generic and the Fine Bros can't lay claim to it. All they can offer is their branding and assets, and the possibility of promotion. It's not novel, not empowering, and it looks exactly like what it is - a massive money grab off their fans' work. The Fine Bros can swear up and down that their motives were pure, but that doesn't matter a whole lot when they're part of a big MCN driven by revenue and corporatism.

        Thanks for playing devil's advocate, but I'm not buying it.

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        • icon
          nasch (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 1:51pm

          Re: But...


          Other Youtubers are rightfully pissed off about this because there is no upside to signing.


          Why would they be mad about that? Just don't sign up.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:25pm

    Sounds like the internet reacted...

    ...poorly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:25pm

    The only downside to your premise that a trademark on the "React" brand wouldn't limit the ability for others to make their own videos of the same nature, is that YouTube itself essentially gives content creators a "shoot first" mechanism to take down competitors. We've all seen recently with the Cool Cat takedowns, well within Fair Use, that there's nothing good that will come from any of this. No matter what the Fine Brothers' real intent is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 3:08pm

      Re:

      How do the Fine Brothers react to satire? That is constitutionally protected, after all.

      I'm expecting someone to set up a "Not-So-Fine Brothers" Youtube channel soon to demonstrate the point....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:48pm

    What I don't think your take-away is from these comments is that the people don't believe them.

    You paint a picture of a mostly benign support program of a small newborn franchise.

    But their past and even current actions render forth the comments you see here. The vast majority simply don't believe this to be some benign well-intentioned program in light of all things.

    in fact, for a support program, they dont actually provide any. From DIGG, "Ironically the React World FAQ states, "We are not currently making [show graphics, logos, and actors] available to creators.""

    http://digg.com/2016/fine-bros-react-world-licensing

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:54pm

    How much is their brand worth if they are willing to give it to literally anyone, who'll cut them in on their non-existing profits? Shouldn't they endorse people based on, I don't know, talent?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:59pm

    If Fine Bros aren't evil then why are they 1. deleting tweets that show them effectively commanding their subscribers to spam Ellen (pretty much a request for DDOS), 2. WHy have they issued DOZENS of takedowns for 'reaction' videos that bear no resemblance whatsoever to their format?

    Also why threaten other channels that have reaction videos with legal action (again channels that bear no similarity to theirs)?

    If they're nice they'll explain all of this.

    Mike, also we'd like you to post officially and state that FineBros (and their affiliates) are not partners and have never had anything to do with Techdirt (including Ads), as that would stop anyone from claiming your being paid to support them. Cheers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Deimal (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:15pm

      Re:

      I don't think techdirt needs to address anything regarding whether they have been compromised financially or w/e regarding Fine Bros. I've been reading techdirt for nearly 10 years, and I've never, ever, seen anything to make me doubt the sincerity of the writers here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:27pm

      Re:

      If Fine Bros aren't evil then why are they 1. deleting tweets that show them effectively commanding their subscribers to spam Ellen (pretty much a request for DDOS), 2. WHy have they issued DOZENS of takedowns for 'reaction' videos that bear no resemblance whatsoever to their format?

      As I thought I've been pretty clear, I agree that those actions are horrible and I disagree with them entirely.

      But that's *separate* from the issue of creating a system to encourage and support fan vids.

      Also why threaten other channels that have reaction videos with legal action (again channels that bear no similarity to theirs)?

      Again, a stupid action on their part, but different from the idea here.

      People keep conflating the two -- and maybe that's to be expected giving how the Fine Bros. have responded in the past.

      But the key thing: if there were people with a brand who had NOT had that sort of history, and they created a similar plan to help fans create, promote and make money from their fan videos, it could be kind of cool.

      Mike, also we'd like you to post officially and state that FineBros (and their affiliates) are not partners and have never had anything to do with Techdirt (including Ads), as that would stop anyone from claiming your being paid to support them. Cheers.

      Wow. Post one thing you disagree with and people automatically claim you're paid off. To be clear, until last week, I was only marginally aware of an entity called "the Fine Brothers" and had basically seen two or three of their "react" videos when they were virally passed around. That's the extent of my connection to them in their entirety.

      As far as I know I've never spoken to them, anyone connected to them, anyone who's even watched their videos beyond the two or three that I've seen personally. I've certainly never done any kind of business deal with them. And really, if that's your first thought, you should perhaps calm down a bit.

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      • icon
        DocGerbil100 (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:13pm

        Re: Re:

        Hi, Mr Masnick. :)

        I don't think I've ever heard of the Fine Brothers before reading this article.

        While I'm certain your article in favour of the Fine Brothers was well-intentioned, the benefit of the doubt is something most of us generally only give to those that have no history of IP abuse.

        The Fine Brothers don't fall into that category - quite the contrary, in fact - and the most reasonable assumption is that this is a land grab, or so it seems to me.

        Also, we live in a world where every authority we know of - be it political, military, security, police or religious - is publically seen to be corrupt, motivated only by greed and self-interest, concerned not with the greater good, but only what they can get away with.

        Hollywood - which the Fine Brothers seem to be living next door to - is a primary source for much of that corruption, with a reach that extends vastly beyond its own economic borders, so to speak.

        In such a world - and particularly in this instance - profound cynicism and conscious, deliberate paranoia are not so much to be expected as they are mandatory. They're basic survival traits for every content-creator - and strongly recommended for everyone else.

        When rendering such a questionable verdict on the issue, Techdirt can hardly be considered above suspicion. Why would you imagine otherwise? Why would you even want it otherwise?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There's nothing wrong with trying to be fair and even-handed. Why are we obliged to choose between tick or tock, see or saw? I don't always agree with Mike, but I do love that Mike is moderate and reasonable.

          I see no benefit in taking or holding extreme positions.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            DocGerbil100 (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 10:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Hi, Ms Cockcroft. :)

            I agree that there's nothing wrong with being fair and even-handed, but unfortunately, Mr Masnick's article doesn't appear to be either one of those things.

            I came to the matter with no knowledge or preconceptions about the Fine Brothers, but just from reading the article alone, I had the impression that Mr Masnick was grasping for any straw he could to defend these guys.

            It doesn't read like an honest article, it reads like something from a lawyer who knows full well that his client is guilty and that every shred of evidence is against them.

            That impression is only very strongly reinforced, rather than being refuted at all, by the responses here and on other sites.

            The IP-sharing idea Mr Masnick is gushing over may be a reasonable idea in the hands of reasonable people who can reasonably be said to own what they're selling.

            In this case, however, the Fine Brothers appear to be attempting to leverage a trademark to claim ownership and sell a piece of an idea they didn't originate and cannot possibly claim any ownership of in law.

            Mr Masnick, for whatever reason, has chosen to defend a pair of indefensible, idea-ownership-claiming, IP-abusing scumbags.

            I don't see anything moderate or reasonable about that.

            PS: Mr Masnick himself has shown no difficulty in taking extremist positions when it suits him, such as on the topic of free speech, where he's openly said that more-or-less anything goes, as far as he's concerned, just so long as there's a right to reply.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 1:57pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I had the impression that Mr Masnick was grasping for any straw he could to defend these guys.

              He's not defending "these guys", he's defending this one thing that they're trying to do*. You'll notice nowhere in the article does Masnick praise the Fine brothers' character or anything of the sort.

              PS: Mr Masnick himself has shown no difficulty in taking extremist positions when it suits him, such as on the topic of free speech, where he's openly said that more-or-less anything goes, as far as he's concerned, just so long as there's a right to reply.

              I disagree, unless in the "more-or-less" caveat you put things like fraud and true threats. He recognizes that there are types of speech that do not get protection.

              * I do not intend to defend either the people or their plan, as I know hardly anything about either

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 12:59pm

    The important distinction that this article misses IMO is the highly likely possibility that the "opportunity" to license their format and branding will instead turn into a a compulsory shakedown of any competitors on youtube who should not need to seek a license to make a "react" video.

    What would prevent Fine bros from turning this into a shakedown/turf claim on react videos? If their history is any indication, they certainly seem inclined to pursue limiting similar videos in an aggressive manner.

    Given the usual techdirt perspective of opposing legal lockdown and impediment to technological advances and online culture sharing/development, I overall found this article to be shocking and little bit disappointing. Building paths for fans to copy your work is great. Setting yourself up as a gatekeeper is not, as many, many articles on this site demonstrate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    fingertrouble, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:10pm

    Well...

    Maybe you should ask the creator of Seniors React about this?

    Since he/they created the Elders React format months before they did, they apparently DMCA'd his arse and shut him down THEN started their own Elders React - because starting Kids React means you suddenly own all other X React videos...I see nothing original in their format to protect, apart from the name (but you can't protect something that didn't exist yet...pretty sure a format isn't copyrightable, and if it was it would need to be unique, which the react format isn't)

    Reddit is on the case, maybe with an AMA with those people...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:12pm

    What? Nintendo...

    How is this different than Nintendo "helping" people make money with their youtube programs? It's content control misusing copyright to make a profit.

    Mike, man, you've been my hero. How can you not see the parallels? They might say nicer things about their program, but ultimately they're just Nintendo trying to corner a market they shouldn't have a right to. I honestly think you should look a little more at these guys before you paint such a benign picture for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Deimal (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:18pm

      Re: What? Nintendo...

      They applied for trademarks, not copyrights. Trademark being more broad and controllable of others' independent content than copyright. The trademarks are where I think most people's concern lay.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:33pm

        Re: Re: What? Nintendo...

        I misspoke, since nintendo's MO centers around using copyright as it's specific tool of control.

        That aside, anything to add on the "help" they're both offering through licensing?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:14pm

    The Fine Brothers are complete assholes

    I hope we get to watch them "react" to the news that they both have inoperable, terminal brain cancer that will kill them slowly and extremely painfully.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ted Hasse (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:20pm

    Mike, you are usually right but you are getting it wrong here.

    From BBC:
    "Asked on Facebook whether people would be prevented from making a video called, for example, 'Kids react to Red Bull', the Fine Brothers replied: 'That is a trademarked show name, so yes, that is correct.'"
    First of all, that title is a great example of classic fair use, so they are mistaken as to the limitations of their rights through registrations like KIDS REACT. They apparently think that merely using their purported trademarks in a descriptive manner is something they are entitled to prevent. Their tweets regarding BuzzFeed and Ellen videos that show reactions show they feel they are entitled to something and they were somehow wronged. This won't end well.
    I do not at all believe that they started registering marks because they wanted to do something cool. They tried to dress up their attempt to expand their ability to claim IP rights in a cool way, however, most people don't seem to have been fooled as to what this is all about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:44pm

      Re: Mike, you are usually right but you are getting it wrong here.

      Carrot and stick. Like Mike I think the carrot looks quite good but they clearly have shown a history of using the stick.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:40pm

    Cha ching

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:45pm

    Was this article written by the Fine Brothers public relations department? Seriously I've never seen a more patronizing article on Tech Dirt. These guys don't have some original format or idea here to even license in the first place. It's literally show X object to Y group of people and film it. Only difference now is that you can slap their stupid logo on it and give them part of any profit you might make from it. The idea that they did this just to "help fans make their own videos" and we all just misunderstood their intentions is ludicrous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 3:20pm

      Re:

      In Mike's defense, I think he was saying "The concept they came up with was actually pretty good" and not "The Fine Brothers are pillars of IP society."

      People with bad motivations have good ideas all the time, just as people with good motivations have bad ideas.

      Unfortunately, Mike appears to have walked too close to the border so that his original point gets missed.

      Imagine if "The Fine Brothers" was replaced with "Prenda Law" -- I think Mike's article would read very similarly, but people would likely get the point a bit more.

      Of course, fan video of gay porn being distributed through the studios would raise all sorts of OTHER reactions, but hey....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    vfxguy (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:56pm

    Here's a good video summing up the nuances of this issue.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a49fipjglyc

    Thanks to Dan Olson for the video explanation.

    From what I can gather the Fine Bros are approaching this with the MCN model (despite their verbal dancing to the contrary). They are going to take around 40% of your revenue, they will not allow you to use their branding or logos, and there is no kind of filtering or screening program for the content in the network so what is the gain for joining their network?

    And now that they are trying to Trademark their various REACT names, they will certainly push harder on takedowns under the guise of 'protecting our trademark'. They are also very vague about what constitutes the elements of their brand, making it easier for them to cast a wide takedown net.

    Watch them carefully try to reframe the issue while not being specific about the reality of what they are really trying to do.

    Fine Bros update video video released Sunday night
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t-vuI9vKfg





    Here is AlexHD's summary of Dan Olsen's video at the top of response (Video is 10 minutes long)

    1) The Fine Bros have no case when it comes to trademarking their format "people react to things", it is simply too broad and too shallow, and too close to the concept of "people react to things". You cannot trademark the concept "people react to things", the same way as you cannot trademark the concept of "reality TV singing competition".

    2) The only thing unique about their videos is their branding, which they are perfectly okay to trademark and license. "Kids React!" with an exclamation point would be fine, but "Kids React" or "Elders React" are already popular phrases within the platform. Sounds okay so far, right?

    3) Here's where it gets scary. React World has no mechanisms in place for quality control. It isn't like their Burger King example where a license owner has a certain expectation of service delivery. They are literally crowdsourcing the making of React videos to everyone.

    4) With tens of thousands of React video channels signing up for free, none of them will ever be able to become reasonably profitable for the creator, however ALL of them will be monetised by Fine Bros Entertainment, taking a 30-50% cut of revenue.

    5) And here's where it gets even scarier. Fine Bros will be able to leverage their influence to take down channels that are not part of their brand, forcing them to become part of the React brand (and forfeit a cut of their revenue), or being taken down completely. THIS IS RACKETEERING.

    No one can defend the Fine Bros after seeing the true nature of their licensing plan. This isn't about enabling YouTubers to make money from the React brand, it's about creating a giant network of people to do the Fine Bros' work for them, and then taking a vast portion of the spoils while leaving creators with pennies.


    There are so many small things about what they are doing that are normally looked down upon by Techdirt. I'm surprised they got a pass.

    Was it poorly executed by them? Yes. That poor execution pointed a magnifying glass at what they are really doing and that is where their problems really lay. Ironically by releasing that video prior to the comment term on their Trademark application, they probably doomed themselves to not getting the Trademarks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:59pm

    I like the cross-promotional concept of the licensing agreement. Not so much the execution, which is MAFIAA-esque.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 1:59pm

    This is one time where I'm going to have to disagree with Techdirt.

    You may be right about it being a potentially cool thing ON PAPER, but in practice they're already taking down videos. This is no different than Sony trying to trademark Lets Play.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    vfxguy (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:02pm

    on a side note...

    I find it funny that the videos that these guys make are built ENTIRELY on the idea of taking someone else's content and re-purposing it to make money for themselves under the idea of fair use. However, if you get anywhere close to their format of videos, they send a takedown notice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:16pm

    you're ignoring too much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anon, 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:18pm

    ITT: People react to a headline rather than read an article.

    Though I disagree with some off your points, Mr. Masnick, I still think this was well written and thought out. I hope your optimistic view on the matter is correct. My only concern is what happens in the future when these two are no longer with the company and the future owners decided to be more sinister.

    -anon

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:52pm

    This might be the dumbest article I've ever read on TD.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mattybeast (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 3:48pm

    Seems to me this "React world" has less to do with empowering, or enabling content creators as much as it is an attempt to exploit them.

    There is nothing to trademark as far as "concept".
    Their "format" appears to be by and large the the concept itself. That leaves the "brand" as what they can license.

    They compare this to franchising but it's not really the same thing at all as there is no standard that content creators have to live up to as in a franchise agreement. It's open to anyone, and you get to used the branding and the "support that comes along with it", which if there are tons of people making these videos, is meaningless because it's just impossible to manage thousands of "partners". None of these partners will be very profitable for the creator, but ALL of them will be earning Fine Bros Entertainment 30-50% of the revenue they generate, even if it is just pennies. The scale could make it very profitable for them , so I just don't buy this whole "empowering content creators" jazz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 4:29pm

    A problem that *may* occur is brand names becoming a generic term. Think Xerox, Kleenex, Band-Aid, Trampoline.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Eric Champlin, 1 Feb 2016 @ 6:25pm

    The Fine Brothers - Subscriber Crash Demonstration

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    morganwick (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 7:26pm

    I think this is the only time in Techdirt history a writer has said "What these people say they're doing is a good idea, ignore all the evidence that points to what they're actually going to do".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 9:29pm

    What a "surprise"... what are the odds of one jew not supporting another jew, regardless of what they are doing?

    Answer: 0%

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 10:25pm

    Thing One - There was an idea that would/could have been beneficial if executed correctly.

    Thing Two - The picked the worst spokespeople.

    Thing Three - We've been promised awesome things and then screwed when they pull of the mask.

    Thing Four - Despite the benevolent claims, they have shown a history of being bullies & possessive over things they think they "own".

    It is really hard to separate these things to discuss them.

    Announcing something like this and the only portions you have figured out was how it would benefit you... bad thing. Even if the underlying thing could be a great fantastic thing the idea is pretty much dead for now. They are going to be in full on spin control and make the idea toxic for quite a while.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 11:29pm

    wtf

    Has Mike been replaced by some sort of replicant?

    Is this article just a steaming pile of click-bait meant to capitalise on the controversy?

    Mike should do some PR for parasites and cancer- or maybe expound on the virtuous nature of hitlers plans for his work camps. (yay- full godwin achieved!)

    ...so much for logical consistency at TD.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:02am

      Re: wtf

      Whenever you see TechDirt throw logic out the window, odds are there's a monetary connection behind the scenes with regard to whomever they're making excuses for.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 12:01am

    Helping the little guys.... BS!

    "But that's *different* than the idea of supporting fan vids."

    The Fine Brothers are supporting fan vids like TPP helps the economy. TTP supports SAY they're helping, but we know they're not.

    We could put all the homeless in concentration camps and SAY we're eliminating the homeless problem in America.

    Trademarking the word "react" has a chilling effect on people uploading their own videos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 1:36am

    Maybe someone can do this...

    Do a react-movie about people seeing the Fine Brothers Plan...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 2:12am

    Is this a sponsored story? A bit of "ads are content"?

    It seems strange that you would defend them Mike otherwise

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JonRob (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:17am

    Let us help you! For just a small fee, you can...

    Does anyone else remember those 2am commercials asking people to send in their patent ideas to a company purporting to help them get their concepts out into the world and monetize them in exchange for a small fee? This sounds just as sketchy to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:22am

    long time fan and reader Mike, but you are so off the ball on this one. i agree licensing a show with identifiable elements (like Star Wars) to content creators on Youtube is a nice idea, but it's a slippery slope that'll have people claiming ownership over the most mundane of aspects. You can imagine what kind of snowball effect that'll have on Youtube.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:36am

    I guess, since it's in the "hear me out" sub, but this article is extremely biased and farfetched. This whole Fine Bros thing really stinks of BS with all the other trademarks they are attempting to push. Them announcing it has brought this all to light; CELEBRITIES REACT, ADULTS REACT, PARENTS REACT, DO THEY KNOW IT?, KIDS VS. FOOD, LYRIC BREAKDOWN, PEOPLE V. TECHNOLOGY, and TRY NOT TO SMILE OR LAUGH. In their attempt to monopolize the recording of these basic human functions, they are going to lose two trademarks they already have in: ELDERS REACT and TEENS REACT, which law offices are already working to cancel (many pro bono).

    Now trying to compare the fact that they are trying to "get in" on a basic human function being recorded, is nothing like comparing Lucasfilm getting cuts for a movie with an extremely unorthodox basis BOUGHT by another company, and not permitted to the public. If Lucasfilm loaned this to everyone, it would completely ruin an individual storyline with linear characters. Everyone in the world reacts, with or without linear, unorthodox stories. Two completely different arguements, and makes for an invalid one.

    On the other hand, way to get a bunch of hits on an article, I've never been on Techdirt.com, and this brought me here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Megore, 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:58am

    What they we going to do wasn't going to be new or original at all

    They basically were going to setup a MCN (multi-channel network) which there are a bunch of on youtube, Maker Studios, Machinima, BroadbandTV....etc

    This is the biggest puff piece I've seen here on Techdirt.

    The Verdict does a great job of explaining MCNs and what the fine bros were trying to do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr09VacU8e0

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 2:55pm

    Meglomainac

    I just want to help people. I want to create a framework where everyone can create and distribute their work using my extensive network of contacts, and I will only take a small percentage of all revenue generated.

    I have no evil intentions and I seek only to do good with my good fortune.

    Am I pretending to be the **AA's, Facebook, or the Fine Bros? Does it matter? They all want to be the leech that gets fat off the work of others without having to actually do much...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2016 @ 4:49pm

    FUCK YOU THERE IS NOTHING GOOD ABOUT THIS GO AWAY

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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