Prior to Tuesday, January 26th, 2015, the Fine Bros were one of the YouTube community’s most successful and beloved entities, best known for their “Children/Elders/YouTubers React” videos. After Tuesday, January 26th, you would have thought brothers Benny and Rafi Fine had announced their intentions to join ISIS after simultaneously endorsing Donald Trump for president along with defending Bill Cosby’s innocence.
In reality, on that fateful Tuesday in January, the Fine Bros revealed their new YouTube licensing program, called “React World,” while trademarking words such as “React,” “Kids React,” and “Elders React.” What initially seemed like a pragmatic business decision, looking to capitalize on the popularity of the Fine Bros’ YouTube programming, the React World announcement drew the immediate ire of the YouTube community.
What the Fine Bros viewed as a way to aggregate and profit from every “react” YouTube video posted to the video-sharing network was conversely viewed as a system to monitor and look to take punitive action against anyone, Fine Bros affiliate or not, who would post a video that pertained to someone’s reaction to something. The Fine Bros fancy themselves the “inventors” of reaction videos, with the recent React World controversy not being their first foray into taking on other content creators that post similar material.
In 2014, Ellen DeGeneres produced a segment in which children share their reactions to typewriters. The Fine Bros, claiming it as their intellectual property, tried to declare infringement upon their intellectual property. The claims never quite gathered the steam that the Fine Bros had likely hoped for, despite starting an Internet campaign to shame DeGeneres’s show into apologizing. Obviously, DeGeneres made no acknowledgement of the claims, and in actuality, the piece bore no resemblance to the Fine Bros’ format.
There have been other occasions in which the Fine Bros attempted to take on Mashable and the like, but yet again, all ill-fated schemes. Initially, there was a divergent discourse over the seemingly predatory efforts of the Fine Bros to “protect their brand,” but many have noted that Bill Cosby’s Kids Say the Darndest Things had sparked the genre, generating copycats for decade – The Fine Bros included. Yet, Benny and Rafi Fine continued with their intentions to maintain their dominance within the reaction video genre.
YouTube is perhaps the closest equivalent to the Millennials’ “American Dream,” a social platform that has monetary value for those who are willing to apply themselves toward creating novel and stimulating content, with the Fine Bros being one such entity. Unfortunately, where the YouTube community considers itself the ultimate in DIY stories of success, the Fine Bros opted for a more “corporatized” approach to extending their content creating empire.
The YouTube and Internet communities are incredibly vindictive when it comes to their warped sense of social justice, stopping at nothing until perceived injustice is beaten into oblivion, and the Fine Bros had to learn of such tendencies in the most painful manner imaginable for a YouTuber – loss of channel subscribers. At peak points during the Fine Bros debacle, Benny and Rafi Fine’s man channel was loosing up to 10,000 subscribers an hour, with other YouTubers live-streaming the declining subscription count.
Ultimately, the Fine Bros submitted to the Internet revolt and onslaught of criticism, and deleted the videos on their channel announcing the launch of React World. The duo also rescinded all trademarks filed for, and altogether canceled the initiative. The brothers also penned an open letter to the Internet communities – stating that the React World initiative had “pure intentions,” but understood the fears expressed by the YouTube community.
In short, chalk this one up as a victory for the Internet and its Social Justice Warriors, but don’t expect things to always work as quickly and succinctly as the Fine Bros controversy ended. While the React World initiative was created poorly, and launched in one of the most egregious fashions possible, it is a valuable and unnerving look into the power of the Internet’s adversarial idealists and zealots.