Youtubers retract copyright claim following fan reaction
James R | On 03, Feb 2016
Two YouTubers have retracted an audacious copyright claim this week, following overwhelmingly negative fan reaction.
Benny and Rafi Fine, aka. The Fine Brothers, have up a huge following on the video site thanks to their “react” videos, which show people reacting to objects and other videos. Elders React to Star Wars (above), published before Christmas, featured pensioners watching the new trailer for The Force Awakens, earning over 3 million views.
The format has become one of the staples of vlogging, alongside traditions such as unboxing games or toys and tours of a vlogger’s room.
The brothers, though, seemed none too happy with everyone else using their react format – including Ellen Degeneres on her talk show. So they launched a plan to trademark phrases such as “Kids React”, but also the verb itself. After all, with the term appearing in everyone else’s video titles, how can theirs stand out from the pack, especially one searches for “react” videos?
This problem, though, is faced by all online video creators, with YouTube’s strength stemming precisely from the community that has sprung up from shared ideas and creative trends. The “React World program”, as the Fine brothers dubbed their legal challenge, therefore sparked a huge backlash among fans, with their channel rapidly losing subscribers.
As a result, they have now scrapped the trademark claim, apologising in a blog post on Medium, but adding that they had “pure” intentions.
“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,” they said.
“We have decided to do the following:
1. Rescind all of our “React” trademarks and applications.
2. Discontinue the React World program.
3. Release all past Content ID claims.”
They added that the concerns people had about React World are “understandable”, and that “people see a link between that and our past video takedowns”, but they insisted former claims against other vloggers were “mistakes from an earlier time”.
Whether they can win back their subscribers, though, will be another matter entirely.
“It makes perfect sense for people to distrust our motives here, but we are confident that our actions will speak louder than these words moving forward,” they concluded.
Or, to sum up their reaction to the wider reaction in a react video: