I reiterate; I am not an accredited expert on Copyright Law or Intellectual Property in general. I’m just an idiot who knows how to do a little research.
Original video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t-vuI9vKfg
So this was supposed to just be a one-off thing, buuuuuuttt… I’m having fun. The Fine Brothers uploaded a video, simply titled “Update”, today to respond to the React World criticism, and so let’s tear them apart again, shall we?
0:11-0:13: “What we’ve realized is that we completely screwed up…”
There we go, that’s all you need to say-
0:13-0:15: “…with how we originally talked about this.”
0:21-0:26: “We were never trying to say that every video where someone reacts to something else is something we would try to control.”
No, not control every video. Just profit off most of them. Though, to be fair, a large part of the problem originally was how vague their “React” trademark was, and how broad their attempts at what I’ll call YouTube-censorship (not “censorship” in the proper meaning, but YouTube is by far the biggest platform out there for online speech through video content, and thus have a notable influence on speech and the “message” in any particular context) would be. If they are going to clarify things in a meaningful way, and not just drop some rhetoric and false promises, I’m happy to hear them out. That being said, they’ve already accrued a bad reputation for YouTube-censorship, just in the last few days, after having videos that were critical of React World taken down.
0:26-0:30: “When we referenced licensing the React format, we only meant out specific series…”
First of all, your FAQ talks about other series, including Firefighters React (as one example). So this suggest that you consider any group of people react to be part of your series. That is still extremely broad and would likely not be supported in a Intellectual Property Court of Law.
Secondly, given the case law surrounding reality TV, it could even be found, if it ever went to court, that you don’t have copyright over, say, the Teens React format. Given that we don’t know this, and you have not applied for a Copyright Registration Certificate (which I explained last time), “licensing” this content seems premature at best. Prove you have ownership of something before you start trying to sell it.
0:36-0:41: “… those who know us personally know how passionate we are about trying to help creators…”
So we’re supposed to accept your testimony on what your friends testimony would if we asked them if you were nice guys? Sorry, but, “My friends think I’m great,” isn’t much of a sales pitch.
0:44-0:49: “… with us simply providing resources and tools to anyone who wants to go down this path…”
Not “simply providing”. Selling. Be honest, this isn’t a give-away to your fans (which, by the way, you could do if you were that passionate about supporting creators), this is a business move. At least be honest about that.
Also, that’s not all there is to it. By selling the rights to produce React content, you are implicitly claiming to own those rights. Because you don’t actually own them (at least, you have not yet been proven to own them via legal court decision or Copyright Registration Certificate), you are in affect stealing those rights from everyone else. Falsely claiming copyright over something that is fair or open use is an underappreciated form of theft.
Okay, they begin answering general questions they’ve gotten now. I’ll give the timestamp, followed by the question in italics, the answer in bold, then my response.
Q: What exactly constitutes any of your series formats?
A: The simple answer is, watch any of our series […] It’s all of the elements of the show, all used in the same style and way.
Define “elements”. Define “style”. Define “way”. That’s what you would be asked if you applied for a CRC with that answer. The question is very clear; it’s searching for a clear, concrete explanation of what you are claiming copyright over. You answers tells use to interpret “all of the elements” seen in your videos. Does that mean you have ownership over walls? Desks? Computers? I see all of those in your videos. Or is it only when it’s arranged in a particular way? So then if someone were to make a React-like video, but filmed outside rather than inside (as your videos are), would that not constitute your format? So I guess you wouldn’t actually mind someone making an unlicensed Firefighters React then.
We’re asking for more clarity and specifics, and you’re giving us less.
1:22-1:35: They provide an analogy by way of opening a burger restaurant. You can either start one on your own, or join a franchise like Burger King which would grant you access to logos and promotional support.
It’s true, the promotional support does seem to be a genuine service they are offering. They are not offering their own logos that they use however, so it’s clearly not the same degree of support. They’ll give creators tips, and maybe retweet some of their videos, but they won’t actually lend you the credibility of their brand (which probably isn’t worth much anyway right now).
More importantly, the analogy misses the key complaint people are having. What they are doing seems to be more like if you opened your own burger place and severed a ground beef patty between two buns, Burger King comes over and says you’re stealing their burger “format”, and they shut you down.
A (yes, we’re still on the first question): You can join and get all these assets and support, or you can make your own reaction videos completely without us.
Okay, but will my independent reactions videos be taken down? Because in your original video, you complained about supposed copycats “ripping-off” your content. THIS is what people are concerned about, and you still haven’t addressed it!
You’ve marketed React World as licensing a format. If it’s just the support, and not the copyright, you’re selling, then it is not licensing, it’s selling a promotional service. Since you are calling it licensing, people rightly reached the conclusion that you will try to prevent people from producing “unlicensed” content.
Q: Have you applied for any trademarks?
I can answer that one, yes. They have an application pending for the trademark “React”
A: Yes. We have trademarks, just like other companies do, that use trademarks to protect their properties.
So we’re back to claiming you have intellectual property here, and that you’re going to protect it. That’s the concern. That you may not actually have the property you claim to have, and in “protecting” it, you are actually stealing it from everyone else.
If your “React” trademark gets approved, you have all the right to use that and protect it in whatever way the law deems appropriate. I assume you also have trademarks on your logos and other graphics; yeah, good to protect those too. But please be specific in what IP you claim to have (such as your “format”, which you don’t have any IP protection certification on), and how you intend to use it/the scope of the trademark (such as “React”). If I title this article, Lang Reacts to “Update.”, would you consider that trademark infringement?
A: … just because we have or might get trademarks doesn’t mean we’re going to run around and start taking down videos.
Okay, that’s what I wanted to hear. If you do not attempt to have the content of anybody not affiliated with React World or the Fine Brothers taken down, then there is no issue. At this time we only have your promise for that, so we’ll see if it holds. However, with that clear expression of your intentions, I fail to see good reason to further chastise you over this at this time.
I don’t know of other YouTube channels trademarking so broadly in the past, and it seems unnecessary, but perhaps it is harmless, and will be used for honest protection of your brand.
That being said, you already have gone around taking down videos, so I guess you were right in saying you’re not going “start taking videos.” We have good reason to be wary. Still, if you actually don’t try to abuse other creators, and you make amends for the videos you already have had taken down of those who criticised you, then we cool.
Finally, they admit to having had videos taken down in the past when “…some has produced a beat-by-beat version of your [our] exact series…” Welp, I feel sorry for all that good-will I just gave them. It’s cold outside, and my window is three stories up and drops onto concrete.
Unfortunately, because they took these videos down, I can’t actually watch them to verify the similarities. If these videos used, say, the exact same scripts as particular videos the Fine Brothers used, then I have no problem shutting them down. However, anything less than that, and I would expect the Fine Brothers to get some proof of copyright FIRST, e.g. a Copyright Registration Certificate, or a court order saying that the video does infringe on the Fine Brothers’ copyright. And I HIGHLY doubt these were all exact copies of their transcript.
If the Fine Brothers are so confident that a particular video infringes on their rights, I want to see them take it to court. Have it settled in some official legal capacity so we finally know exactly what is and isn’t their Intellectual Property. Simply going to YouTube to complain about a video is NOT sufficient to prove it infringes on your content, so don’t do it.
Don’t Lose Your Way