As guilty as I feel for admitting it, I do feel a certain giddiness when a foolish person or persons get exactly what they deserve.
For those that don’t follow news on what’s been dubbed ‘new media’, There has been a massive uproar among the YouTube community regarding the two producers Benny and Rafi Fine – known collectively as The Fine Bros.
For years, they have been running Fine Bros. Entertainment on YouTube with the majority of their most well-known content being the reactions of others to various other media. Seriously, they have eleven different series’ on their channel that are just different demographics of people responding to games, music, and other videos.
Currently, they are caught up in the aftermath of a controversy that has cost them many subscribers. In fact, many other YouTubers have started live streams detailing their steadily dropping subscriber count while others flock to Twitter and proliferate the hashtag #UnsubscribeFineBros.
And all of this happened because they tried to trademark the word ‘React’.
Seems innocuous enough, right? Well, it isn’t when you think of just how common of a word ‘React’ is in the English language. If they had their way and got their trademark, The Fines would have the power to file a copyright strike on any channel that even used the word regardless of the context.
This is systemic of an even larger problem among the YouTube community. Because all copyright strikes are handled by an automated system rather than actual people, it’s remarkably easy to have a channel removed and disproportionally difficult to file a counterclaim in defense. Bare in mind that, for many of these people that fall victim to this broken system, the videos that they produce are their livelihoods; the source of the vast majority of their income to keep a roof over their heads. The end result of this is that someone can shut down your business without going through the due process on a whim.
None of this was helped by the actions of The Fines. During their infamous video dubbed simply and vaguely “Update” (which has since been removed by the channel itself), both of them seem so deadpan and sarcastic that you can’t help but feel like they aren’t being entirely truthful. Not to mention that the act of removing the video and several angry comments made them seem like they had something to hide.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this may very well be nothing but an over-reaction to this fine mess (BOOM! Two puns in one sentence, baby), but it does illustrate two things worth addressing; public relations in a post-information age world and reassessment of modern copyright laws.
First, this serves as an extension of one of my early articles documenting the PR catastrophe of Jon Jafari; AKA “JonTron.” In addition to choosing your words carefully so as not to offend people, you need to use language that isn’t vague. Vague words leave loopholes in interpretation that people can take advantage of and savvy consumers will be quick to share their (totally legitimate) fears with other less informed consumers.
Also in terms of PR, you should never try to hide or censor the comments of your critics or detractors. Instead, you need to address their problems – preferably in a public setting where others can bear witness – and reassure them that you are on the level.
Secondly, and shifting to copyright law, this ordeal shows just how broken the system really is. I may go into greater detail about everything wrong with modern copyright, but it would take more time than I have here and I want to stay focused on YouTube and The Fine Bros. Basically, we need to reassess copyright law and replace Youtube’s automated system with more accurate measures that don’t favor the accuser over the accused.