More so than usual.
Recently, the Fine Bros, a YouTube channel that does "react" videos (such as "kids react," "elders react," and "teens react") experienced a great deal of backlash when they announced that they were trademarking the react video, and that anyone who wanted to make a similar video had to go through the Fine Bros new business venture, "React World."
The brothers have since taken down that announcement, but luckily, there are a slew of outraged YouTubers who have saved the clips for us and further explained what's going on.
So, now that you're all caught up, dear reader, on the current drama of the Internet (actually, this is like week-old news, but I've never been one with the times), I wanted to share my unwarranted opinion with a bunch of strangers.
Because that's what the Internet is for...right?
My initial reaction was to be grossly horrified at the notion of trademarking the word "react." It's squashing other content creators' imaginations! It's purely greed based! They're horrible; why did I ever subscribe to them in the first place???
While I still find it ridiculous to trademark such a vague, pre-established format on YouTube, my take on the situation has since gotten a little more nuanced (I hope).
No matter the artistic format, there has always been a fine (hah, fine...gettit??) line between inspiration and copying. It seems that this has been an established debate in the music industry--remember the great Martin Gaye Blurred Lines controversy of 2013? The same goes with network television. The industry has been around for so long, we've reached, for the most part, an understanding of what makes an allusion to another show, versus what is considered downright stealing.
The trouble here is not that YouTube is filled with greedy, get-rich-quick schemers. The trouble is that YouTube is still a relatively new platform. It's made massive changes since its inception in 2005, and it continues to grow astonishingly quickly. Everyone's pushing their boundaries because YouTube was built on the idea that people needed a platform to push boundaries. This isn't a new idea--it's just gotten more publicity as the popularity of YouTube expands. What's more recent, however, is that the boundary-pushing doesn't just end with creative content--it extends to the idea of ownership and business expansion as well.
In that case, I sympathize with Benny and Rafi Fine. They were pushing limits and finding new ways to expand their business--they probably should have known their audience and realized that it would massively backfire, but the idea itself wasn't entirely unheard of. It was simply one of the first highly-publicized risky business ventures that we've seen on YouTube.
However, we really can't gloss over the fact that react videos were around on YouTube long before The Fine Bros ever created their brand. What the Fine Bros did, rather, was establish and popularize a genre of YouTube.
If people started trademarking genres, no one would be able to make anything ever.
Think of it this way: there's a much clearer understanding that there are literally thousands of beauty gurus who will do Sephora, Bath and Body Works, and Ulta hauls throughout their careers. The formats of these videos are basically identical: a pretty girl with extraordinary eyelashes sits on her bed with dozens of shopping bags, says "hey guys!" in a really chipper voice, and proceeds to show the camera what she bought that day.
As far as I know, no haul video has tried to stray from this format, and Zoella hasn't tried to sell "Haul World" to her viewers.
This is where Jenna Marbles' argument comes into play: YouTubers gain inspiration from other content creators all the time. That's what makes it an interactive platform. If there hadn't already been react videos, or "what girls do when..." videos on YouTube, numerous viewers would never realize their creative potential, would never create anything. The interactive nature of YouTube is partly what distinguishes itself so well from things like network television.
And, as Jenna said, it's flattering to see so many people inspired by your work.
Maybe this is just how I view the Fine Bros, but I never saw them is the prime example of what YouTube is about. Watching their videos, I always perceived a sense of distance between myself as the viewer and the Fine Bros as creators. They were clearly excellent entertainers, but, unlike other YouTubers, they didn't emphasize the importance of collaboration, or instigating conversations in the comments section. They were a show, a brand. They didn't really fit in the YouTube community in its current state. They worked as entertainers in the same way we might see The Daily Show.
So, in my view, the Fine Bros biggest mistake was not knowing their audience and not knowing what people look for in the YouTube community. They succeeded at making a simple formula that generated views. Because of this, I didn't feel that Benny and Rafi Fine had personally failed me. They simply failed to understand the consequences of trying to turn a community into an entertainment center.
Again, these are just my (largely uneducated) thoughts. I'd be happy to welcome other opinions and insights!
And, just to break up the tension, here's Jenna Marbles being a pro: