Word Withdrawal
July 29, 2008 8:00 AM   Subscribe

The sad day has come: Facebook has shut down Scrabulous. Read the complaint here (PDF). Those suffering from withdrawal can head on over to Scrabulous.com.

There are several Save Scrabulous groups on Facebook (1, 2, 3, 4). Previous MeFi post on Scrabulous.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (108 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
How is this upsetting if you can still play on the website?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:01 AM on July 29, 2008


Because scrabulous on facebook allowed you to play a move when you log in, and not play in real time.
posted by ORthey at 8:02 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


How is anything Facebook related upsetting? (other than its users)
posted by lildice at 8:02 AM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


How is anything Facebook related upsetting? (other than its users)

Let's not be jerks now.
posted by The White Hat at 8:04 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


More like the sad second has come.
posted by cashman at 8:07 AM on July 29, 2008


NOOOOOO

(seven points)
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:08 AM on July 29, 2008 [12 favorites]


I, for one, weep sincerely.
posted by millipede at 8:09 AM on July 29, 2008


There's always Scramble -- until the Boggle people get that taken down!
posted by rottytooth at 8:12 AM on July 29, 2008


There's also Scabrous (picking at your wounds online)
posted by DU at 8:14 AM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Good, now I can stop acting like I don't care that I suck at Scrabulous.
posted by amro at 8:16 AM on July 29, 2008


Has anyone tried the official Scrabble game on facebook?
posted by ORthey at 8:16 AM on July 29, 2008


tragedy. although maybe I will be more productive now.
posted by miss tea at 8:17 AM on July 29, 2008


Arggg!! I was ahead in the game I had going, too!
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:20 AM on July 29, 2008


I find that there are a really high percentage of "words that no one knows, but create excellent points/ letter usage" in online Scrabble-type games. In other words, people cheat when The Online Honor System is in place.

(Not me, though. Nope.)
posted by joelhunt at 8:21 AM on July 29, 2008


I had a scare when they took down the Boggle clone (then called Bogglific, now called Prolific). But they made some changes, and it's back up. I am seriously addicted to that damn game. I never enjoyed Scrabulous as much. It just took too damn long to play a game.
posted by kimdog at 8:21 AM on July 29, 2008


My username is worth crap, even on a triple word score. Whatshisface would be worth a lot though.

Not literally whatshisface. I'm thinking of that guy. You know. XQFRSXYZZ or whatever the hell.
posted by iconomy at 8:25 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What is this Facebook of which you speak?
posted by Pecinpah at 8:26 AM on July 29, 2008


There's still www.isc.ro.
posted by availablelight at 8:30 AM on July 29, 2008


No coincidence that this was timed with the release of the official Scrabble facebook app, I'm sure.
posted by chundo at 8:32 AM on July 29, 2008


Argh! All those unfinsihed, abandoned games I had going, never to be glanced at guiltily again!
posted by statolith at 8:32 AM on July 29, 2008


It was like Wank 2.0.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:36 AM on July 29, 2008


XQUZYPHYR?
posted by yhbc at 8:38 AM on July 29, 2008


Um... you can still play by email on the scrabulous site. And you can still play Scrabble on facebook.

What's the problem?
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:40 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let the migration to Wabble begin!
posted by mynameisluka at 8:40 AM on July 29, 2008


It's a BOOK OF FACES, why can't you see that? WHY?!?!?!

although, I suppose we should be grateful it's not a book of faeces.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:41 AM on July 29, 2008


I find that there are a really high percentage of "words that no one knows, but create excellent points/ letter usage"

Don't be a hater just because we have big vocabularies.

JESSAMYN [minimum 20]
posted by jessamyn at 8:47 AM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


What is this Facebook of which you speak?

Something you would have to have a computer to...oh, wait.
posted by Who_Am_I at 8:47 AM on July 29, 2008


Hasbro owns Scrabble in the US and Canada and Mattel does everywhere else. Looks like play between these regions is disallowed.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:49 AM on July 29, 2008


JESSAMYN [minimum 20]

Pssht. [Min. 28, bingo is expected - bonus: "ufez" was coined during an, admittedly quite drunken, actual game of Scrabble]
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:51 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Scrabulous is so last year anyway
posted by poppo at 8:54 AM on July 29, 2008


blue_beetle: you're missing an E right between the F and C there.
posted by davemee at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2008


No coincidence that this was timed with the release of the official Scrabble facebook app, I'm sure.

It's also the last day of the Scrabble National Championship today.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2008


I probably won't shed too many tears for Scrabulous. It was great fun, but let's call a spade a spade: it was a cash-grabbing rip-off of somebody else's intellectual property. (Could its name possibly sound any more ripped-off? "Scrabblesque"? "Scrabulish"? "Compare With Scrabble"?)

But let's not overlook the equally cynical response: the takedown demand wasn't enforced until the fully licensed version was up and running. I'm not privy to the details, but it looks to me like the copyright owners were fully aware of the good that Scrabulous was doing for their brand, and decided to keep it around like some useful parasite, until it was no longer required.

So RIP, Scrabulous. What's the word score for posting a single period?
posted by bicyclefish at 8:57 AM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Here is the problem as I see it: Hasbro owns Scrabble, but has clearly copied many of the ways in which the folks at Scrabulous turned the game into one that was easily playable online. The interface from Scrabulous included two different dictionaries; so does Scrabble on Facebook. Scrabulous includes a move list; so does Scrabble on Facebook. Most importantly, I think, Scrabulous includes a two-letter word list; so does Scrabble on Facebook.

It seems to me as if Hasbro/Mattel got all angry about Scrabulous supposedly stealing their game, but then went and did the same thing by using the same tactics for digitizing the game that the folks at Scrabulous implemented first.
posted by brina at 8:59 AM on July 29, 2008




Don't be a hater just because we have big vocabularies.

Or because my vocabulary consists mostly of words like "QI" and "ZA."
posted by mullacc at 9:05 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Scrabulous is so last year anyway

indeed. It's all about facebook chess now.
posted by jeffj at 9:09 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hasbro owns Scrabble in the US and Canada and Mattel does everywhere else.

And ...
"The rights for Scrabble are complicated: Hasbro owns the rights to Scrabble in North America, and Mattel in the rest of the world. RealNetworks has a digital deal with both companies, but Electronic Arts also has a digital deal with Hasbro....The...split rights issue...is currently what prevents a potential officially-sanctioned Scrabulous from existing as it prohibits global multiplayer gamers."*
posted by ericb at 9:15 AM on July 29, 2008


The Fall of Scrabulous: A Lesson to All IP Pirates
"Digital history is strewn with the bodies of companies that thought they were immune to intellectual property (IP) laws. Most recently, Psystar drew Apple Inc.'s fire when it launched a series of Macintosh clones. Though we were surprised at how long it took the Cupertino company to react, everyone knew that Apple would eventually sue and earlier this month it did. Apple even asked Psystar to recall the Mac clones it already sold.

...The 21st century poses greater risks for companies that don't police their IPs than ever before. Copy-cat ideas spread as rapidly as wildfire on a dry Montana plain. Sites like Facebook provide a platform for applications and utilities that might otherwise go unnoticed. The site has millions of users and they're always looking for interesting new applications, which are, thanks to a smartly-designed interface, easy to find.

...Particularly galling to me are the Pollyannas who decry the big corporate giant going after the little, helpless developer guy. Please. I shed no tears for the Indian developers. They knew what they were doing and they obviously understand that small ideas can become very big business online. Hasbro knows this, too. To let Scrabulous continue would be a clear signal to other developers that it's open season on Hasbro's IPs.

Today's technology makes imitation particularly alluring, but it's simply not worth it. In the end, there is no safe harbor for IP pirates—a reality that surely sends a cold shiver down the spine of every developer of every other little copy-cat product and service out there."
posted by ericb at 9:20 AM on July 29, 2008


Scrabulous is still there in Facebook for me. I think this just affects those of you on the other side of the water.
posted by handee at 9:21 AM on July 29, 2008


I find this whole situation morally evocative. It's interesting the timing with which the Hasbro threats came, only to be followed up by their own Facebook SCRABBLE. The question comes to mind as to whether they were planning an online version of their own all along, or whether they themselves were bootstrapping the massive success of Scrabulous.

If they were bootstrapping the success of someone else who made a smart move, one which Literati must have made obvious years and years ago - then are the Scrabulous guys really the thieves or is Hasbro?

I think that Hasbro should have hired these guys onto their development team and assimilated Scrabulous rather than C&D and sue them. It reminds me of Apple's practice of assimilating third-party Mac applications after they garner a certain air of usefulness and popularity. Why couldn't Hasbro do the same?

On the other hand of the IP debate, SCRABBLE's rules work because they're so well-known, and whether the rules with their folk-like tradition can have "ownership" or not, someone (Coleco/ Mattel Hasbro) has pumped money into the enterprise and it would seem wrong for just anyone to hitch onto that same money wagon.
posted by tybeet at 9:22 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think that Hasbro should have hired these guys onto their development team and assimilated Scrabulous rather than C&D and sue them.
"Although Hasbro sent a takedown notice back in January to Rajat and Jayant Agarwall, they later tried to come to an agreement with the brothers over the rights to the game. In fact, Electronic Arts, RealNetworks, Mattel, and Hasbro - the four U.S. companies that each have some of the rights of Scrabble - came together to offer the brothers a large sum of money which would have allowed them to keep a version of the game up and running.

According to this New York Times article, Jayant Agarwalla said that he and his brother did not create Scrabulous to make money - they just wanted to play Scrabble on their computers. So why didn't they accept the big check then? The brothers decided to turn down the check, rumored to be around the $10 million mark; apparently, they were holding out for more money. How much more? A multiple of several times $10 million by some accounts. Even though the game, by all fair estimates, was probably only worth around $3-6 million, the brothers felt they deserved more.

While some are calling the Scrabulous shutdown a great blunder on Hasbro's part, we wonder what other solutions could the company have taken to protect their brand? Or is it time for companies to give up trying to protect their brand altogether and just learn how to better compete with those that counterfeit their copyright? This question is truly the basis for all the arguments surrounding the piracy issue - that is, whether it's worthwhile to go after pirates, thieves, and copyright-infringers, or whether it's better to simply let them be and consider it free advertising."*
posted by ericb at 9:25 AM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


On a camping trip we once made our own scrabble board by remembering roughly how many tiles you would get of each letter and cutting them out of pieces of paper. Is Hasbro going to go after us next?
posted by Space Coyote at 9:27 AM on July 29, 2008


So what grounds was there for shutting down Scrabulous? The idea for a game is not protected by copyright, certainly not by trademark, and patents would've expired decades ago. There's a lot of talk about 'intellectual property' but there's officially no such thing. You can either have a copyright, a trademark, or a patent.

I get the feeling Hasbro got this on trademark, which means our legal system is fucking idiotic.
posted by mullingitover at 9:27 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


The question comes to mind as to whether they were planning an online version of their own all along, or whether they themselves were bootstrapping the massive success of Scrabulous.

They were. Hasbro owns the IP to Scrabble in North America and had previously licensed the game for PC, console and mobile platforms to Electronic Arts (through the year 2013).
posted by ericb at 9:32 AM on July 29, 2008


Even though the game, by all fair estimates, was probably only worth around $3-6 million, the brothers felt they deserved more.

In that case... they're a couple of greedy louts.
posted by tybeet at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dear Mr. Space Coyote,

Thank you for alerting us to the fact that you need to be sued.

Sincerely, Hasbro

P.S. - we are confiscating all smores until this matter has been settled.
posted by iconomy at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


So if this is truly a trademark issue, what's to stop scrabulous from changing their name and carrying on as before?

And for the love of god, can we stop parroting the 'IP' line? It's copyright, patent, or trademark. Throwing around 'intellectual property' just confuses things.
posted by mullingitover at 9:37 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


So what grounds was there for shutting down Scrabulous? The idea for a game is not protected by copyright, certainly not by trademark, and patents would've expired decades ago.

This was discussed in the previous thread. The action is indeed based on trademark infringement.
SCRABBLE® is a registered trademark. All intellectual property rights in and to the game are owned in the U.S.A and Canada by Hasbro Inc., and throughout the rest of the world by J.W. Spear & Sons Limited of Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, a subsidiary of Mattel Inc. Mattel and Spear are not affiliated with Hasbro.*

"In addition to Scrabulous' own troubles, the situation calls into question a host of potential legal landmines for Facebook, which allows programmers to develop and upload all sorts of applications to the social networking site.

'The big issue here is what this implies for Facebook,' said Tom Hemnes, a Boston-based attorney who specializes in copyright and trademark law. 'If I were betting on this, if the case came to litigation or settlement, [I would bet] that Facebook would lose. They are indirectly associated with the name Scrabble to attract viewers to their site, and that would be trademark infringement.'"*

"Scrabulous infringes on Hasbro's trademark. Like all intellectual property owners, we take this type of infringement seriously," Hasbro spokesman Gary Serba said in a statement. "We are reviewing a number of options with the parties involved and hope to find an amicable solution. If we cannot come to one quickly, we will be forced to close down the site and its associated distribution points."*
posted by ericb at 9:38 AM on July 29, 2008


Great, now I'm on facebook for exactly no reason.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:38 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's that old saw -- "Whenever they say, 'It ain't the money; it's the principle, it's the money."

But I can sympathize. After all, $10 million doesn't really go very far in India. They obviously have loftier goals in mind -- like feeding the entire friggin' country for a year, instead of just half of it.

(Cue the late great Freddie Mercury and company.)
posted by Mike D at 9:44 AM on July 29, 2008


That must hurt to have 10 million bucks sitting in your hands and then throw it away.

How many points for g-r-e-e-d-y ?
posted by mecran01 at 9:45 AM on July 29, 2008


ericb writes "The action is indeed based on trademark infringement."

Great, so as soon as Scrabulous changes their name to 'Word Squares' they're back in business then?

It's ridiculous that so much ink is getting spilled over Hasbro/Mattel's 'Intellectual Property' as if Scrabulous hijacked Scrabble's game code... when in reality this all boils down to the dubious claim that people will confuse Scrabulous with Scrabble, and that somehow it will hurt Scrabble.
posted by mullingitover at 9:45 AM on July 29, 2008


It was great fun, but let's call a spade a spade: it was a cash-grabbing rip-off of somebody else's intellectual property.

Like hell.

Even assuming there's a clear and compelling legal case that Scrabulous infringes on one of the sloppily-named "intellectual property" laws (and I'm not sure there is) there should not be. Why in the world should a board game have any kind of property status for over 70 years?

I'm happy to pay Hasbro or whoever for the work they do in manufacturing something useful to me, like the tiles and the board (or at least I was). I can wish the creator a decade or three of benefit from making something so delightful. But asserting ownership this far away from anything that incentivized its creation or built its popularity in the first place fails the test against the original purpose of "IP" laws.

And without the Scrabulous guys, there's little evidence to suggest Hasbro would even have known how to do the online version. We're 13 years into the web, during which Hasbro had access to massive amounts of capital and existing connections and channels, and they were beat out by two guys in India. Pitiful.
posted by weston at 9:50 AM on July 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


The brothers decided to turn down the check, rumored to be around the $10 million mark; apparently, they were holding out for more money. How much more? A multiple of several times $10 million by some accounts. Even though the game, by all fair estimates, was probably only worth around $3-6 million, the brothers felt they deserved more.

That's incredibly stupid. $1.5 million would be my estimate of its value, to a totally neutral third party, if the whole game was unencumbered by any sort of ownership or IP issues. 5 years revenue for what is clearly a fad is pretty good money. But that's assuming I can't just duplicate it myself by hiring a programmer for a few months.

If I'm the owner of the intellectual property, and therefore legally in the right to simply hire someone to create my own version of the game I already own, the only value Scrabulous has is the cost of duplicating it plus whatever pittance it would take for my lawyers to draft the C&D for Facebook. So $1.5 million would be a gift, and $10 million an absolute shower of manna from heaven.

These guys built this application. Did they seriously think, having done so, that two large game companies could not possibly do the same thing? Dolts. If someone offers you ten million bucks for some flash nonsense of very dubious legality you whipped up in your spare time... TAKE IT.
posted by rusty at 9:56 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]



indeed. It's all about facebook chess now.


Oh how I love thee. (Though the computer clearly cheats)

I'm disappointed in this outcome, because now there's no point in creating Lobo Rally for Facebook.
posted by drezdn at 9:58 AM on July 29, 2008


So for all those in the 'OMG Scrabulous stoled Hasbro's IP!!!1' camp, can I get a show of hands of people who were genuinely confused about whether Scrabulous was made by Scrabble?
posted by mullingitover at 10:02 AM on July 29, 2008


oh no!! :(
posted by musicmaverick at 10:29 AM on July 29, 2008


Wait, I am confused. It looks like it is still up in the Application Directory for me to add at will.
posted by rmless at 10:31 AM on July 29, 2008


"The action is indeed based on trademark infringement."

RTFC (kindly provided in the FPP): "This action arises under the Lanham Act ... and the Copyright Act."

So the action is based on trademark and copyright law.

can I get a show of hands of people who were genuinely confused about whether Scrabulous was made by Scrabble?

That's not the question posed to the jury. Under paragraph 1125 of the Lanham Act 15 USC 1125

§1125. False designations of origin and false descriptions forbidden

(a) Civil action.

(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which--

(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or


I'd say these Indian fellows were guilty as charged. They could never have won this case and should have taken the money.

That being said the same IP laws that protect Hasbro prevents them from ripping off these programmers.
posted by three blind mice at 10:35 AM on July 29, 2008


These guys built this application. Did they seriously think, having done so, that two large game companies could not possibly do the same thing?

So far, that position appears to be correct.

If someone offers you ten million bucks for some flash nonsense of very dubious legality you whipped up in your spare time... TAKE IT.

Probably a good idea.
posted by weston at 10:40 AM on July 29, 2008


Welcome to the much slower-to-load, buggy EA version of Scrabble, everyone!

Ugh.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 10:43 AM on July 29, 2008


I thought general game design and mechanics were not able to be copyrighted? Isn't the name the only real violation here - and if they changed the name to something significantly different, couldn't it go right back up?
posted by luriete at 10:50 AM on July 29, 2008


NNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

Sorry.
posted by jokeefe at 11:08 AM on July 29, 2008


three blind mice writes "(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or "

I don't see how they were attempting to convince anyone that they were playing Scrabble. The complaint has a ton of handwaving about how Hasbro really, really should be able to copyright their game, and zomg Scabulous used SCRABBLE in their meta tags, but at the end of the day this complaint needs to be taken out back and put down. Nobody thought Scrabulous was Scrabble because thanks to the laziness of Hasbro et al, Scrabble is a board game and doesn't exist on the internet.

The Scrabulous brothers probably have IP of their own to fight back with, given that they had a working online implementation of the game first.
posted by mullingitover at 11:18 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


mullingitoverMe writes "The Scrabulous brothers probably have IP of their own to fight back with"

Argh, now I'm doing it too.

s/'The Scrabulous brothers probably have IP of their own to fight back with'/'The Scrabulous brothers probably have patents of their own to fight back with'/g
posted by mullingitover at 11:34 AM on July 29, 2008


I don't see how they were attempting to convince anyone that they were playing Scrabble.

You don't think "Scrabble" and "Scrabulous" are intentionally similar names?
posted by three blind mice at 11:39 AM on July 29, 2008


s/'The Scrabulous brothers probably have IP of their own to fight back with'/'The Scrabulous brothers probably have patents of their own to fight back with'/g

Why patents? The same trademark and copyright laws that protect Hasbro protects the Scrabulous brothers. Just because their use is diluting/infringing - and they can't use it themselves - Hasbro doesn't automatically get to take from them what they created. They'll have to negotiate the rights - which is what Hasbro apparently tried unsuccessfully to do.
posted by three blind mice at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2008


three blind mice writes "You don't think 'Scrabble' and 'Scrabulous' are intentionally similar names?"

I haven't heard any indication either way, and 'Scrabble' is a dictionary term so I don't have a lot of sympathy for people trying to claim ownership of it.
posted by mullingitover at 11:56 AM on July 29, 2008


According to this New York Times article, Jayant Agarwalla said that he and his brother did not create Scrabulous to make money - they just wanted to play Scrabble on their computers. So why didn't they accept the big check then? The brothers decided to turn down the check, rumored to be around the $10 million mark; apparently, they were holding out for more money. How much more? A multiple of several times $10 million by some accounts. Even though the game, by all fair estimates, was probably only worth around $3-6 million, the brothers felt they deserved more.

It's depressing to see people here treat their expecting of more money as fact, when the source says it was apparent. It's possible they just wanted to retain control of their own damn work. Not everyone is in it for the money.
posted by JHarris at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2008


I haven't heard any indication either way, and 'Scrabble' is a dictionary term so I don't have a lot of sympathy for people trying to claim ownership of it.

So are "ford" and "apple" but when words such as these are used to identify a particular company or product they become trademarks for that purpose.

Hasbro doesn't own the word "scrabble": it owns the right to deny others the use of that word to describe a particular and specific board game.

That was what was in dispute here and again it seems that Scrabble and Scrabulous are intentionally similar names used to describe very similar games.
posted by three blind mice at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


My first 'official' Scrabble game on Facebook has officially lost my first move. I see great things for this app. It had all sorts of animations and sparklies, but if it doesn't actually remember the moves made, kinda defeats the purpose...
posted by pupdog at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2008


three blind mice writes "Why patents?"

Because you can't copyright a game. It makes even less sense to claim that trademark law protects the implementation of a game. However, you can patent methods for operating a game online, and given that the Scrabulous brothers already had a working implementation of their invention, and the US is a first-to-invent nation, they may have invented methods which they can exclude others from using.

three blind mice writes "That was what was in dispute here and again it seems that Scrabble and Scrabulous are intentionally similar names used to describe very similar games."

Debatable. Scrabble is a depression-era game played on a table with pieces of wood. Scrabulous is a game played over the internet using microprocessors, databases, algorithms, data structures, asynchronous messaging systems, graphics, and on and on. While the name might be somewhat similar, I doubt Hasbro and crew would've stopped their shakedown if the game had been called 'Awesome Word Squares 5000.'
posted by mullingitover at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2008


I haven't heard any indication either way, and 'Scrabble' is a dictionary term so I don't have a lot of sympathy for people trying to claim ownership of it.

Windows.

Orange.

I'm sure there are many more examples of "dictionary words" that have legal ownership in certain contexts.
posted by public at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2008


I started a couple of games, but now it freezes while loading, leaving the message "Checking IP address." Why ARE they checking my IP address? What business is it of theirs? Oops, now this:

We'll be back up shortly ... We're working on some tech problems and Scrabble will be ready to play as soon as possible! We appreciate all the great feedback we've received over the past week and as a result we're making changes to Scrabble for its official launch in mid-August, including a streamlined app with the option to turn-off animations for faster gameplay and full keyboard functionality for those who prefer this way to play.

Please continue to let us know how we can make Scrabble - the best word game on Facebook - even better! - The Scrabble Team

posted by msalt at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2008


There's always Literati at Yahoo. It's Scrabble-esque enough to satisfy a Scrabble jonesing, but different enough to (hopefully) be safe from being shut down.
posted by amyms at 12:38 PM on July 29, 2008


Was playing a game this morning when I scored a 50-pointer on a triple-letter score. The game was mine at that point. Five minutes later it shut down. Fucking bullshit.
posted by tiger yang at 12:47 PM on July 29, 2008


public writes "I'm sure there are many more examples of 'dictionary words' that have legal ownership in certain contexts."

I'm sure there are. I wouldn't feel a shred of sympathy if they lost their trademarks, either.

brb, going to trademark my new brand, 'Beer.'
posted by mullingitover at 12:48 PM on July 29, 2008


Nobody thought Scrabulous was Scrabble because thanks to the laziness of Hasbro et al, Scrabble is a board game and doesn't exist on the internet.

I don't think your typical Scrabulous player is media-savvy enough to know that Scrabulous is not directly tied into the Hasbro board game. It's like creating an online game called "Monopolous" with the same board structure and rules as Monopoly. Because it's so similar people who don't live full-time on the computer, like my ex-gf, sisters, and every other person I know except me who plays Scrabulous on Facebook, are going to assume it's official.
posted by autodidact at 12:49 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


All Hasbro has to do to circumvent the brothers' rights to the online implementation is create the game in Flash...
posted by autodidact at 12:50 PM on July 29, 2008


Even if the Scrabulous guys "just change the name to not be confusing", won't they still be liable for past damages?
posted by smackfu at 1:01 PM on July 29, 2008


I'm sure there are. I wouldn't feel a shred of sympathy if they lost their trademarks, either.

brb, going to trademark my new brand, 'Beer.'


Yeah. Fuck Apple.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:10 PM on July 29, 2008


Scramble is more fun anyway - and harder to cheat at...
posted by mildred-pitt at 1:10 PM on July 29, 2008


"The action is indeed based on trademark infringement."

RTFC (kindly provided in the FPP): "This action arises under the Lanham Act ... and the Copyright Act."


I did RTFC.

'The Lanham Act' is also referred to as the 'US Trademark Act'.

"The Act prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising."

Hence, I repeat, the action is indeed based on trademark infringement.
posted by ericb at 1:11 PM on July 29, 2008


You don't think "Scrabble" and "Scrabulous" are intentionally similar names?

Interesting to note that in October 2007 the brothers registered Scrabulous as a trademark and service mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but later abandoned it in February 2008.
posted by ericb at 1:17 PM on July 29, 2008


Not everyone is in it for the money.

I'm sure the brothers don't mind the $25,000 they are making each month off of the game.
"Jayant said that he didn’t exactly understand what all the fuss was about. Its ability to generate insane numbers of pageviews notwithstanding—he said some players play as many as 170 games at a time on Facebook—the application isn’t throwing off that much money. He declined to say exactly how much, pegging revenues at "over $25,000 a month.'" *
posted by ericb at 1:25 PM on July 29, 2008


"Mattel, which holds the rights to Scrabble outside north America, also has filed suit against Scrabulous in a case awaiting resolution in an Indian court." *

Since there has been no resolution in India, I suspect that's why the brothers' Scrabulous website is still up and running.
posted by ericb at 1:46 PM on July 29, 2008


.

Sure, I can go to scrabulous.com, but I doubt all my friends I was playing with are quite as addicted as I am, or will otherwise bother.
posted by recoveringsophist at 1:53 PM on July 29, 2008


They obviously didn't get enough invites to Mob Wars.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:00 PM on July 29, 2008


Of course this is all a tempest in a teapot, as Scrabulous is a mere shadow of the awesomeness that is Warfish.
posted by mullingitover at 4:45 PM on July 29, 2008


Scrapple almost fills the void that Scrabulous left behind.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 5:05 PM on July 29, 2008


Nobody thought Scrabulous was Scrabble because thanks to the laziness of Hasbro et al, Scrabble is a board game and doesn't exist on the internet.

I don't think your typical Scrabulous player is media-savvy enough to know that Scrabulous is not directly tied into the Hasbro board game.


No kidding. Same colours for the point multiplier squares, even? I mean come on. Either get your hate on for trademarks in general or get out. This specific example sucks.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:30 PM on July 29, 2008


* sobs *
*weeps *

* looks around and realizes that this is what a summer evening looks like when not illuminated by the glow of tiny tiles*

*weeps again *
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:09 PM on July 29, 2008


Sheesh yeah I feel like a big devils advocate. I'm ambivalent about IP law but both sides are so stupid, can they both lose? "Scrabble is a depression-era game played on a table with pieces of wood. Scrabulous is a game played over the internet using microprocessors, databases, algorithms, data structures, asynchronous messaging systems, graphics, and on and on."

WTF? It's a game, I've played chess on a board and on a computer, it's the same damned game.

And scrabble's a bad trademark because it's a word? You realize you probably could trademark the word beer if you used it in a non-beer context, like "Beer Bikes" and you had a cute logo of foamy mug bike wheels or something. Kind of like "Apple Computers"
posted by Wood at 8:39 PM on July 29, 2008


Here's Hasbro's response to the nastygram I sent today.

"Hi eleyna,

We understand your passion for the SCRABBLE brand. In fact, we have been hard at work creating a variety of great new ways to enjoy SCRABBLE, from the classic board game, to playing in the digital space on the iPod, iPhone, pogo.com online game site, and now, social networking on Facebook.

Some people have asked us why we couldn't coexist with Scrabulous, and compete head-to-head. In the toy and game business, we have many legitimate competitors, and we welcome healthy competition as our industry strives to provide the best entertainment value for consumers everywhere. Scrabulous did not represent legitimate competition. Scrabulous was an infringement, it was unlawful, and we took the necessary action, similar to what the recording industry did when kids were posting music to illegal sites and allowing their friends to copy the music for free.

As you know, Hasbro filed suit on July 24 to protect our intellectual property rights. However, in deference to SCRABBLE fans like you, we waited to take this action until we had an authentic alternative to offer players. We know that many of you are closely scrutinizing the new SCRABBLE application developed by Electronic Arts. Please note that this application remains in a beta stage on Facebook, and both EA and Hasbro are monitoring feedback from fans, which will help us as we continue to improve the experience leading up to the official launch scheduled for the first half of August.

In closing, we want you to know that SCRABBLE is a very important game and brand for Hasbro. We value the passion of our fans, and we promise that we will continue to innovate in providing the best SCRABBLE experiences possible."

So there you have it. The problem isn't that Scrabulous was awesome, it was that Scrabulous was ILLEGAL. Just like those kids that post music ILLEGALLY. (Damn kids.) And remember - the official SCRABBLE game on Facebook isn't sucky and broken... it's the BEST SCRABBLE EXPERIENCE POSSIBLE. I know because Hasbro told me.
posted by eleyna at 8:51 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


We understand your passion for the SCRABBLE brand.

Who actually talks like this? Who actually thinks that any passion people feel for Scrabble has anything to do with a *brand*?

similar to what the recording industry did when kids were posting music to illegal sites and allowing their friends to copy the music for free.

This is one of the problems with the practice of referring to copyright, trademark, and patent law under the header "Intellectual Property." There is no way in which building your own working electronic version of a given game is like posting a copyrighted musical work someone else created in its entirety.

Now it *is* a bit like a rather common practice in the music industry, and they really ought to be wary of this kind of analogy. If the game Scrabble is really legally like a song -- well, licensing anything from Hasbro isn't a necessity anymore. Just make your own version, pay mechanical royalties to the Harry Fox agency, and we're good to go, right?
posted by weston at 9:07 PM on July 29, 2008


drezdn writes "I'm disappointed in this outcome, because now there's no point in creating Lobo Rally for Facebook."

Do it, I might even join facebook to play. Then in 10 months when WoC trys to buy you out for $1 million dollars you can choose wisely, take the money and run, and I can still play RoboRally online. It's a big ol' win-win all the way around.
posted by Mitheral at 9:31 PM on July 29, 2008


I think that my heart has broken- this was my favorite game on Facebook. Let's get it back!
posted by asst2drsalary at 1:11 PM on July 30, 2008


"Is Scrabulous.com legal, however?

'Unfortunately I cannot comment on this, although Scrabulous.com is live for the time being,' Jayant Agarwalla said..."*
posted by ericb at 3:06 PM on July 30, 2008


If only people understood my passion for the BASIL HAYDEN brand.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:57 PM on July 30, 2008


Wordscraper. It's surprisingly familiar.
posted by gerryblog at 9:16 AM on July 31, 2008


Scrabulous Returns with a New Name and New Rules -- "Scrabulous is back on Facebook, but now it has a new name, new rules and circular tiles that could help its makers skirt legal claims from the owners of Scrabble."
posted by ericb at 1:55 PM on July 31, 2008


Well that's kinda like admitting you're guilty.
posted by smackfu at 2:07 PM on July 31, 2008


Here's what a copyright and Internet lawyer told [the L.A. Times] Wednesday before Wordscraper appeared:
"Q: What if the creators of Scrabulous were to change the name to 'XYZ Game' and tweak the board and point system for their application. Would that make it legally permissible?

A: People are always free to create their own original games. But if they copy the creative expression of a third party, or they try to mimic the logos or trademarks for a famous brand, they will typically be enjoined. Intellectual property law protects against copying and unfair competition. But people are always allowed to engage in fair competition which would require them to create their own original game. The law requires a minimal level of 'original and creative expression' to be entitled to copyright protection."
Hasbro's response to Wordscraper:
"Hasbro has an obligation to protect its intellectual property and will act appropriately when necessary. We recently filed a lawsuit against the developers of the infringing Scrabulous application, and we are pleased that the unlawful application has been removed from Facebook. We evaluate every situation on a case-by-case basis and have no comment regarding the Scrabulous developers’ new application at this time."
posted by ericb at 2:14 PM on July 31, 2008


L.A. Times abridged interview with Ian Ballon, an intellectual property and Internet attorney with Greenberg Traurig.
“Q: Many people think that because Scrabble is 70 years old, it should be in the public domain. Why isn't it?

A: A copyright claim lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years.

Q: Butts passed away in 1993, which would extend the copyright in this case to the year 2063.

A: Yes, but it’s really important to remember that the plaintiff is also asserting a trademark claim, and that lasts as long as you exploit it. Marks like Coca-Cola, Mercedes -- those can continue indefinitely as long as it remains in use. The law prevents third parties from making both literal use of a trademark as well as uses that are confusingly similar. The term ‘Scrabulous’ is obviously intended to evoke the name Scrabble. Plainly, the people who created the game were trying to evoke the Scrabble mark.

Q: What’s the policy argument for having copyrights in the first place?

A: The term of protection is what allows authors, composers and other creators to successfully exploit their works. If material immediately came into the public domain, then there would be no financial incentive to write a song, film a movie or undertake similar creative ventures. The reality is that all of the great authors, composers and artists wouldn’t be able to make a living. The public benefits by encouraging the arts. In return, artists and creators are compensated. If you took that away, you would have a much smaller body of creative works.

Q: So why create an expiration date?

A: It’s a balance that the framers of the Constitution had to make. They wanted to create financial incentives for artists and creators. But they also wanted to foster free speech. The quid pro quo is that after the period expires, a work comes into the public domain.

Q: Why 70 years?

A: That was fixed by an international treaty so that U.S. authors, performers and creators have the same right as people in other countries. The term of protection used to be shorter.

Q: What if the creators of Scrabulous were to change the name to ‘XYZ Game’ and tweak the board and point system for their application. Would that make it legally permissible?

A: People are always free to create their own original games. But if they copy the creative expression of a third party, or they try to mimic the logos or trademarks for a famous brand, they will typically be enjoined. Intellectual property law protects against copying and unfair competition. But people are always allowed to engage in fair competition which would require them to create their own original game. The law requires a minimal level of ‘original and creative expression’ to be entitled to copyright protection.”
posted by ericb at 2:21 PM on July 31, 2008


As for the new Scrabble game, I do like the feature that rearranges your tiles randomly at the click of a button.

Hasbro has hinted darkly that slowness and "not available" screens on the official games are the results of some kind of denial-of-service or other hacker attack (instead of, say, shaky software shuddering under a suddenly large load of traffic.) Does anyone have any solid information about that?
posted by msalt at 3:14 PM on July 31, 2008


Q: What’s the policy argument for having copyrights in the first place?

A: The term of protection is what allows authors, composers and other creators to successfully exploit their works.


Because if they couldn't for a term of their lifetime plus an additional lifetime, nobody would ever be able to reap benefits for their works.

I'm fully behind the basic copyright bargain, but let's face it, this case highlights the obvious: that copyright terms are ridiculously long at this point.

Hasbro has hinted darkly that slowness and "not available" screens on the official games are the results of some kind of denial-of-service or other hacker attack

Well, it's nice that they're admitting that it certainly couldn't be the demand.
posted by weston at 10:29 AM on August 2, 2008


Wordscraper is either strange or badly programmed - it seems be be adding dozens of points to words we play, after we play them, with no discernible pattern. Anyone get what the dark blue, unlabeled circles mean?
posted by msalt at 12:39 PM on August 2, 2008


« Older Turkish folktales   |   silver, orange, purple, month Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments