For any young adult, it is hard to recall a time before YouTube. The video sharing site has always been the primary place to access music videos, movie trailers, educational programs and, more recently, reaction videos. The sphere of reaction videos is pretty self-explanatory — they record regular individual’s reactions to things trending on social media and then present it on YouTube as a form of entertainment. The videos are not at all uniform and are always interesting. Creators gauge reactions for various events, fads, foods and media from people of all different age groups, ethnicities and walks of life. There is truly something for everyone in the genre, which is why it has become so increasingly popular among those who make them and those who subscribe.

It is only natural that anything popular will breed and attract controversy eventually. YouTube has faced backlash recently concerning how it protects its users’ creativity and freedom to design their videos as they please. The issue started when one YouTube organization, Fine Bros Entertainment, decided they wanted to trademark “React” videos and essentially brand their own template (which is actually pretty generic) in order to create profit on other’s reaction videos. There is a lot of legal jargon being tossed around, such as copyright law and copyright infringement, which ultimately serves to unnecessarily complicate the issue.

The main problem with what Fine Bros Entertainment was trying to do centers on the fact that trademarking the entire reaction genre and taking ownership of very vague and common titles, such as “React” or “Lyric Breakdown” (which they have already tried to patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office), could mean that other reaction video creators would have to go through Fine Bros to export their work. Additionally, refusal to do this could mean legal repercussions for users who used the format of Fine Bros or titled their video anything along the lines of what Fine Bros has patented.

Fine Bros Entertainment is facing millions of unsubscribers and a slew of negative reaction videos to their announcement. Other users blame Fine Bros and YouTube for exploiting their creative experience on the site for profiteering purposes.

I think it is crucial to direct this anger and passion toward where it truly belongs. YouTube is a site where virtually anyone can make and post videos of their liking, while adhering to specific content rules. While there is obviously some control from the site regarding content and what is uploaded and subsequently taken down from the site, the legal actions taken by its users are not completely underneath YouTube’s jurisdiction. If it was, I am sure anyone trying to create a brand on the largest video sharing website in the world would have bigger problems with the organization. Instead of blaming YouTube for the actions of Fine Bros Entertainment, it would be more efficient to go directly to the source of the issue — the people attempting to license the entire reaction video genre. The best way to do that is simply to continue to create relevant content and speak out against any infringement of rights of any user, regardless of subscriber number. The only way a monopoly of reaction videos could be created would be for other users frightened of legal trouble to stop making them.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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