The fallout from last week’s big announcement from the Fine Bros has not been pretty.
Following the announcement of REACT WORLD – a new initiative where Benny and Rafi Fine’s plans to globally franchise their reaction video “format” has involved literally trademarking the word “React” – the backlash from the internet has left the future of the project, and the brothers’ reputation, in tatters.
To maintain some damage control, Benny and Rafi posted an “update” video this weekend, clarifying some of the wilder accusations in a somewhat admonishing tone
EDIT: The Fine Bros have since removed “Update” following more recent developments, find out more here.
“We realised we completely screwed up with how we originally talked about this,” admits Rafi. “We’re sorry for confusing people by using terminology like ‘our react format’,” adds Benny.
As well as making the poor comparison of working with React World as similar to working for Burger King instead of running your own fast food chain, the brothers also had a hard time yet again of explaining just what is is that constitutes their “format”, and thus what would be considered a trademark infringement.
“The simple answer is: watch any of our series that is part of the React World license, and that is the exact format. It’s not one or two elements, it’s all the elements of the show, all used in the same style and way.”
As the issue has gained so much traction in just a couple of days, even prolific YouTubers have joined in the React World discussion: sharing everything from criticism, to defence, to straight-up trolling.
The internet has been gripped by this realtime subscriber counter for the channel, which shows their number dropping at an alarming speed (since the Tweet below was posted, the Fine Bros have fallen back below 13 million subscribers).
Amidst the hysteria, people have been asking known entrepreneur and community leader Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers for his take; to which Hank responded with a rational and thoughtful essay on the ambiguity of trademarks.
“the question becomes…what are the Fines going to do with their trademark?” asks Hank. “Certainly they won’t take down every video on YouTube with the word “React” in it.”
“[But] how close does it have to be to infringe? Would they need to take videos down in order to protect their trademark? It likely depends on which lawyer they asked because… no one really understands trademark.”
Regardless of public opinion, the Fines own “React” as a trademark and are within their rights to carry on with their React World plans. But it seems that whether or not the Internet will forgive them depends on how those plans take shape.