If you want to make a YouTube video of someone reacting to something, you’ll have to go through the Fine Bros. Variety reports that Rafi and Benny Fine, who’ve built a YouTube empire on interviewing kids, teens, and old folks about various pop-cultural phenomena, have set up a new venture called React World. It aims to aggregate and monetize every “react” video on YouTube — as in, "Someone Reacts to Something" — with the Fines handling licensing and taking a cut of the profit. And other prominent YouTubers are pissed.
Here’s how React World will operate, according to Variety and the Fines’ enthusiastic announcement video: Any non-Fine-affiliated channel that wants to make “react”-style videos will be able to get a license from the Fines, which comes with a brand bible ensuring the videos meet the brothers’ specifications. The Fine Bros. will push all the videos through their React World channel, exposing them to a large, preexisting audience, and take a cut of the revenue in return.
This also applies to a bunch of other Fine Bros. video templates, including “Do They Know It,” “People Vs Food,” “Lyric Breakdown,” “Try Not to Smile or Laugh,” “Opinions,” and “People Vs Technology.” And the Fines have acquired the trademarks to go with them: Yes, they trademarked “React” and “Opinions” for the YouTube video market.
This did not sit well with the hosts of popular YouTube video-game comedy channel Mega64, who see the Fines consolidation of their brand as an insincere cash-grab that will stop other channels from using what seem like pretty broad and generic video formats. And on top of that, they fear the Fines will try to … er, fine, anyone whose videos come too close to the territory they’ve staked out.
Here’s their parody of the Fine Bros. announcement, in which they mockingly announce that they’ve copyrighted “Videos Filmed Outside” and “YouTube Videos™.”
They may not be clear on the difference between copyright and trademark, but maybe they have a point. Does anyone other than the Fine Bros. benefit from making sure videos of people reacting to things are aesthetically similar and consolidated under one brand?
The implicit message of Mega64’s video is a solid one, too: YouTubers still have the power of parody. The bigger, more profitable, and more recognizable something becomes, the stronger the legal grounds for mocking it. A sincere “React” competitor might not be able to stand up to the Fine Bros., but a parodic one can certainly try to thumb its nose at them.