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Old 02-02-2016, 11:06 AM   #1
Talon87
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Copyrights, Patents, & Trademarks

Jeri has an older thread specific to copyrights and Twitch.tv, but today I want to present trademarks and the Fine Bros.. Creating this thread as a general place to discuss copyright and related issues; feel free to repurpose Jeri's thread if he likes and we can have his be the general reservoir for such discussion instead.

Alright. Thread creation disclaimer out of the way ... I woke up today to discover that Reddit is ablaze with respect to the Fine Bros., the producers of those Kids React videos that I know you all love so much. ;p Apparently these guys, in making a livelihood from their videos, went down the rabbit hole we've seen so many copyright and trademark Nazis do in recent years: they decided they'd DMCA anyone on YouTube who was making reaction videos (what) and more alarmingly they filed for trademarks including the solitary word "react" itself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BBC
Asked on Facebook whether people would be prevented from making a video called, for example, "Kids react to Red Bull", the Fine Brothers replied: "That is a trademarked show name, so yes, that is correct."
They just so happened to announce these proceedings, which gave the Internet time to suit up and fight the Fine Bros. But as many critics of trademark law have pointed out, had the Fine Bros. merely kept their mouths shut and not told anyone what they were doing, they quite possibly could have gotten away with it.

This is pretty reminiscent of the Candy Crush Saga debacle from two years ago, where King (the company that makes Candy Crush Saga) attempted to enforce a trademark of the word "saga."

So the question becomes: what do we do about trademark law? I think the public court agrees that it's lunacy to allow people to trademark single English words like "saga" or "react," but what about a two-word phrase like "Kids React" or "Crush Saga"? Should those phrases be reserved for IP holders? What about "Kids React to {noun}"? That specific formula? Should that be trademark-able? If not, how do you define what words are and are not trademarkable without tossing the entire idea of trademarking words out the window? For example, how does Microsoft preserve their trademark over the name "Microsoft" if we say trademarks can only be two words long or longer? Are one-word neologisms protected?

What about the Fine Bros.? Are these guys greedy assholes who deserve every bit of hate they're getting from Reddit & Co. right now? Or are they sympathizable? Somewhere in between? Where do we as individuals fall in condemning these men for their actions, and what do we think about future Youtube content providers attempting similar trademarks and copyrights to protect their IP?
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Old 02-02-2016, 01:09 PM   #2
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A few notes on the differences between a Copyright and a Trademark.

Copyrights are automatic. You make something, you have the copyright for it. It's your IP, provided it meets the standards of originality. For example, Yale Stewart can claim copyright on every JL8 strip he draws. However, he doesn't have the copyright on the characters, which belong to DC. Similarly, the Fine Brothers have copyright on their React Videos, but not the thing that people are reacting to. You are expected to enforce your own copyrights. There are also "fair use" stipulations you must allow, which the internet has muddled completely. For the most part, when the internet talks about IP, they're dealing with copyrights.

Trademarks must be filed for, like patents. You file trademarks not on products, but on names and logos and such. Trademarks are things that identify your product or service as particularly yours. For example, Google has a trademark on their logo and their company name. Randall Monroe could file a trademark on xkcd. The idea is to make it harder for knockoffs to mimic you. Whenever you file a trademark, you have to specify what it is for. So 343 can own a trademark on "Halo", and I can also trademark and name my new car model "Halo", because their trademark is for a video game and mine is for a car. Earning a trademark takes far more work, but if you get it then you can have more power behind you in enforcing it. This is what the Fine Brothers filed for. A trademark on "react" for their video brand, and also on their videos' format (You can trademark a format, it's why The Voice has a different format than American Idol).

I'll try and lay out the scenario in the most charitable light for the Fine Brothers.

The Fine Brothers have been doing these React videos with their particular style for some time now. They believe they have a rightful claim of IP and can trademark their style of React videos. They also believe they need to legally claim this IP and get that trademark in response to Ellen and Buzzfeed copying their concept/format. However, if they get this trademark or enforce their IP, they need to do so equally, meaning they have to take action against Buzzfeed and VideoGameBobby with 10 subscribers. They don't really want to stop VideoGameBobby. So they create ReactWorld, which is a system in which VideoGameBobby can still make his react videos (and get access to a bigger audience), while allowing the Fine Brothers to still meet the qualifications of enforcing their trademark to cover their ass when they march against Buzzfeed. However, they made the mistake of having their trademark claim be too vague. They undoubtedly have IP rights on their brand, but not on "React". It's too vague in the context of a title for a youtube video. Moreover, their definition of "format" is also too vague. If they want to file trademark on their transitions and art design and aesthetic or whatever, that's one thing, but the concept of people reacting to something is something else entirely. Maisie Williams reacting to the Red Wedding on Vine is easily the funniest react video of the entire damn catalog of Red Wedding reactions. Fine Brothers have absolutely no IP claim on that. They can't prove ownership, it's too vague, and moreover, it's just not how the internet works. Their problem is that they asked for too broad a trademark, and that the brand they are trademarking simply has too common and indistinct a name. While the concept of "let's stop Buzzfeed from plagiarizing our style of react videos" isn't inherently wrong, their attempt at doing it was poorly done/impossible. The internet breaks IP once again.

For the less charitable side, you can check out specifics on Reddit, but it basically alleges that the Fine Brothers simply looked at the internet and, out of greed and hubris, said:



There's truth to be had from both angles.
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Old 02-02-2016, 01:27 PM   #3
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The first problem I have with the charitable side is, I read earlier today that their plans for React World were to have anyone agreeing to use the Fine Bros. license forking over 60% of the revenue their video made to the Fine Bros.

The second problem I have with the charitable side is, the Fine Bros. cannot trademark reaction videos or even the subset of kid reaction videos. "Kids React" is nothing more than a YouTube channel's spin on Kids Say the Darnedest Things by Art Linkletter and later Bill Cosby. And those programs, in turn, were nothing more than a televised format of something every parent or guardian has experienced with children since time immemorial: that they react to relics from the past in cute, amusing, and sometimes obnoxious ways. How on Earth do you trademark this. How on Earth do you lay claim to IP ownership over something that was never yours to begin with?

The third problem I have with the charitable side is, you mention trademarking different formats and imply that people would be free to make their own Kids React videos that don't follow the Fine Bros.' format to a tee. But the problem is, it has come to light that the Fine Bros. have been DMCA'ing reaction videos for a while now -- even ones that don't mimic the brothers' program's format.

I'll agree that they aren't inhuman monsters. But I'm going to side with the Internet on this one that they were stupid, shortsighted, and above all else greedy. If they'd been willing to play nice and share they wouldn't be in the mess they're in now.
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Old 02-02-2016, 08:47 PM   #4
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You two have given such a dandy summary of the situation I feel like I'm a well-informed Redditor.

Regrettably, I don't think this topic was really about patents, which is what I was most interested in discussing. Patents aren't particularly relevant to young internet people, unlike copyright/trademarks, even if they're ultimately more important.
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Old 02-02-2016, 08:51 PM   #5
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Would you care to discuss patents? Patents are in the news all the time. Why, just this past 24 hours I was reading about generic Gleevec and how it's only going to be 30% cheaper than the expensive brand name drug because lol no competition yet even on the generic side for at least the next few years. All you have to do is say the word. Any given day in America there's going to be a news story about patents.
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Old 02-02-2016, 09:03 PM   #6
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I think patent law, more than copyright, as the major impetus behind the TPP. A lot of focus is given on the third-party copyright litigation, because in a worst case scenario, it empowers trolls to attack doujin makers financially. What we don't need are internet tough guys ruining the lives of people with talent, but that's what TPP allows.

But in defense of the TPP, patent law is bull-crack. You look at company like AT&T Inc., which is basically Cubone - a child wearing it's mother, Ma Bell's, face - and wonder why they're more willing to embrace the decidedly un-storied history of AT&T Corp. than build up their SBC Brand, and that's because it's harder to establish a brand than it is to simply milk a pre-existing one.

The analogy is that investing the time/research into a patent, only for everyone else in the world finding ways to cheat it and beat you to the market, creates a tremendous disincentive to do any groundbreaking research. Regulators ask that you explain a black box's processes to prove what it's doing, so in defined industries it's harder to make money on innovation. The other option - not disclosing the mechanism behind an invention or process, and instead taking it to market and making it impossible to reverse-engineer - also makes the instrument or process exceptionally difficult to repair.

While I vehemently hate the copyright aspect of the TPP, I'm pretty pro international agreement on patent punishment. I'd feel the same for courts too - I think it's ridiculous that a crime comitted in say London, could be heard in a court in California.
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