YouTube’s Fine Brothers Scrap ‘React’ Licensing Plans After Fan Backlash

Fine Brothers - Benny and Rafi
Courtesy of Fine Brothers Entertainment

YouTube comedy duo Fine Brothers Entertainment have canceled plans to license their “React” show format to users after the move unleashed a furious reaction on the Internet.

The brothers also said they will rescind all trademarks and trademark applications related to the “React” franchises.

“We’re here to apologize,” Benny and Rafi Fine wrote in a message posted late Monday. “We realize we built a system that could easily be used for wrong. We are fixing that.”

The reversal comes after the Fine Brothers lost 300,000 subscribers to their main YouTube channel in less than a week, dropping from just over 14 million to 13.77 million as of Tuesday

Last week, Fine Brothers Entertainment announced a program under which they intended to make money from fan-created videos modeled on their popular “React” series showing people reacting to viral videos. The company also planned to launch “React World,” a community and video channel, around the licensing program.

Scores of YouTube creators and users responded with incredulity to the Fine Brothers’ plan to license “React” and attempts to trademark the format. To many, it looked like an aggressive land-grab to lay claim on a widely used concept that predates the rise of the Fine Bros.’ “React” videos.

“These guys didn’t come up with the idea of filming funny reactions from kids,” video-game attorney Ryan P. Morrison wrote on his blog. “And they certainly don’t own an entire genre of YouTube videos. It wasn’t their idea, and it’s not theirs to own or police.”

FBE’s trademark application for “React,” filed in July 2015, was to cover “Entertainment services, namely, providing an ongoing series of programs and webisodes via the Internet in the field of observing and interviewing various groups of people.”

Now, FBE is not only discontinuing plans for “React World,” it also is rescinding all “React” trademarks and applications, including for “React,” “Kids React,” “Elders React” and “Lyric Breakdown.”

In addition, the Fine Brothers said they will release all past claims flagged by YouTube’s Content ID system for identifying copyrighted content. Content ID mostly flags videos that are direct re-uploads of the Fine Brothers videos, the duo wrote, “but if you know of a video that has been claimed or removed incorrectly, please email us with ‘false claim’ in the subject line.” They said earlier takedowns of videos “were mistakes from an earlier time.”

“It makes perfect sense for people to distrust our motives here,” the brothers wrote, “but we are confident that our actions will speak louder than these words moving forward.”