Monday, February 1, 2016

The Fine Bros. And Innovation

Have you ever seen one of the highly popular and professionally produced "react" videos on YouTube? Particularly ones that say, "Elders React to..." or "Teenagers react to...?" If you have, then odds are those videos were made by a channel called The Fine Bros. They've made a name for themselves over the years in making these kinds of videos that showcase people watching or playing things that aren't in their typical wheelhouse of entertainment.

Well the Fine Bros. made major news recently by announcing that they would be making a "React World" where other YouTube content creators could license some of their assets and format in order to make videos using their style, in exchange for some of the revenue these videos generate.

These seems all well intentioned considering they had already trademarked terms like, "Elders react." So if you wanted to make your own "Elders react" video, you couldn't use that phrase unless you licensed the concept from The Fine Bros. You could do something similar and not call it "Elders react" and presumably be okay, you just couldn't copy the Fine Bros. "format," whatever that's defined as.

This situation escalated though when it was discovered that The Fine Bros were trademarking the word "react." Does that mean you can't use the word "react" in your video without being subject to possible trademark violations? Perhaps. The Fine Bros have stated they don't want other people's videos taken down because of this, but it's already happened to some. This isn't the work of people who are just trying to protect their own product; this is an attempt to corner and control the market.

Let's say you're The Fine Bros and you're getting irritated and upset that other content creators are being successful in making content that's similar to yours. What are your options at this point to stop it from happening? If you're asking yourself this question, you're already doing it wrong. The question is not, "How do I stop people from making videos similar to mine?" the question instead is, "What can I do to make my videos and channel fresh and exciting so people prefer to watch my videos over my competition?"

Competition is a wonderful tool for encouraging creativity and variety if it's allowed to operate fairly. You shouldn't be allowed to trademark something as common or vaguely defined as a "react video" and you shouldn't be trying to stop others from making them. What you should be doing is trying to make YOUR react videos better and more distinct than others. Trademarks won't protect you; people will find away around them. The best protection is to take your product, look at the competition, and use it as a tool to shape and improve what you're making.

This also happens to be the problem with the very idea of licensing assets from The Fine Bros. if you wanted to be part of their "React World." Don't follow their format, make your own! Don't use their format, invent a better one. Don't piggyback on the success of others only to become a clone of them. Find the part of you that can bring something different and interesting to the world and make THAT your asset. Don't allow yourself to become something generic; it won't last, and neither will The Fine Bros. if they don't choose innovation over stifling competition.

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