What Is “Reactgate” And Why We Are Lucky It’s OverFebruary 2, 2016
Now that “Reactgate” is over, I can react with this article.
If you are not one to traverse the realm known as YouTube you may not know of the Fine Brothers and their “React” videos. The Fine Brothers are “content creators” (I use this term loosely) on YouTube known for their reaction videos such as “Teens React to…” “Elders React to…” and even “Kids React to…” certain things such as Adele, video games, or drying paint. Their channel has amassed 14 million (now about 13.7 million after Reactgate) subscribers and has made them the most known channel for these types of videos.
On January 26th 2016 the Fine Brothers decided to announce that they were going to license and trademark their existing React series and let other YouTubers create their own react series. The Fine Bros also attempted to trademark the term “react”, which is used in the title of thousands of other YouTube videos unrelated to the Fine Brothers’ YouTube channel. This would mean that anyone who had already made or would like to many any “react” video would therefore have to go through the Fine Brothers to do so. This announcement was done via their YouTube channel as a video and quickly aroused attention from popular social websites such as 4chan and Reddit.
The Fine Brother assured people that they would not be going after people for making these videos are were promoting that everything was going to be okay, until a creator got their video that had only 8 views taken down due to the pending copyright by the Fine Bros, and that’s when things really got dark.
The internet revolted against the channel causing the 16th most subscribed channel on YouTube to drop approx. 300,000 likes in only days due to the massive outcry from fans and creators against this copyright. The Fine Brothers released a second video saying that they are not trying to do anything nefarious and just trying to make things better for the community, as they rolled their eyes throughout the video and proved what kind of monsters they really are. The original videos were removed from their channel… but this is the internet and nothing truly disappears. (right Beyonce?)
Many YouTuber’s in protest created their own reaction videos and parodies of the announcement by the Fine Bros, which turned out to be hilarious.
Once this story took off and the internet really took hold of what was going on there was no stopping everyone from turning against the Fine Brothers. There were subscriber loss websites, a livestream of their viewer counts taking a nosedive, and even someone known as the “videogame attorney” Ryan Morisson was offering pro bono legal help to those who were affected by the situation.
This entire fiasco lasted until 21 hours ago when the Fine Bros posted this:
A message from the Fine Brothers
We’re here to apologize.
We realize we built a system that could easily be used for wrong. We are fixing that. 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.
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.**
The concerns people have about React World are understandable, and that people see a link between that and our past video takedowns, but those were mistakes from an earlier time. 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.
This has been a hard week. Our plan is to keep making great content with the help of our amazing staff. Thank you for your time and for hearing us out.
Benny and Rafi Fine
*This includes “React,” “Kids React,” “Elders React,” “Lyric Breakdown,” etc. Please note: It takes a while for the databases to update, but the necessary paperwork has been filed.
**Content ID is YouTube’s copyright system that automatically flags content that looks like or sounds like copyrighted content. This mostly flags videos that are direct re-uploads of our videos (which is what the system is built for), but if you know of a video that has been claimed or removed incorrectly, please email us with “false claim” in the subject line.
With that post from the Fine Bros, the internet and content creators won the battle. It proved that no matter how big you think you are, you cannot go ahead and do whatever you want and expect people to lie down and just take it. This does set a scary precedent though for other large entities down the road. If the Fine Brothers didn’t make their initial video would people have found out in time to stop it, and if they didn’t what state would YouTube be in today?
Sony tried something similar to what the Fine Bros. attempted to do very recently by trying to trademark the term “Let’s Play” that is already very popular with YouTube and Twitch streamers when they play a game online for people to watch. The “Let’s Play” format has been around for years and has essentially replaced the old format of playing a game demo when you wanted to see how a certain game played. The trademark was refused in the U.S., but it does show that companies are looking for popular items to take advantage of and cash in on.
One lucky thing though is that we can trust in the communities surrounding things such as YouTube and Twitch to rise up and defend themselves when necessary. Let’s hope though this is the end of the Fine Brothers and the like for trying to turn the things that we all love into lifeless money machines.