Updated: Scrabulous No Longer Available For US, Canadian Customers; Other Countries OK
Tuesday, July 29, 2008; 1:07 PM
Updated: Facebook says the decision to block Scrabulous for U.S. and Canadian users was made by the Scrabulous developers, not Facebook. The social net forwarded the DMCA notice to the Calcutta brothers, who took the app down on their end. Facebook spokesperson said that it isn't taking sides in the Scrabulous-Hasbro dispute.
Original post: Hasbro's lawsuit has shut down the popular Facebook Scrabble application Scrabulous, at least for US and Canada users. "If you try to pull up the popular game, you get the following message: 'Scrabulous is disabled for U.S. and Canadian users until further notice. If you would like to stay informed about developments in this matter, please click here." If you click, you get a form from the Scrabulous founders asking for your e-mail address so they can keep you posted on further developments,'" reports NYT. Here in Mexico Scrabulous is working, and my Australian friends are still listed in the games. Which brings us to the crux of the issue, which is an old, complicated rights ownership crashing into a global online media. Hasbro, which started the lawsuit, only owns the rights to Scrabble in the US and Canada?Mattel owns the rights to the rest of the world.
Rob Glaser, CEO of Real Networks which produces official Scrabble games under license from both Mattel and Hasbro, said that "the original game's rights holders should be overcoming 'silly' IP rules and work with the controversial game, and not try and destroy it," as we noted just yesterday. "The problem is that because of the rights, between Hasbo and Mattel, they don't let people from America play against people from England. There are these silly rules."
Apparently Real was keen to simply buy Scrabulous and use its relationships with Hasbro and Mattel to legitimize Scrabulous, but now Glaser thinks the chances of a solution to the problem being found is low, despite Real's eagerness to find an answer and its interest in buying Scrabulous.
Joseph adds:That Facebook would relent was easy to see coming, given that the DMCA puts the onus on the recipient of the takedown notice. Since Scrabulous clearly played upon Hasbro's trademark, Facebook had little to gain by going to bat for the developer. See update above: It was Scrabulous itself that complied with the DMCA takedown after Facebook passed it on to them. What does it mean for other developers? For most this isn't an issue. Earlier this year, Hasbro shut down an app calledBogglific, whose name played upon another popular word game. It eventually made some tweaks to the game and rebranded itself. Still, for a Boggle-like game, you can check out Griddle. Even though it describes itself as being similar to Boggle, because it doesn't infringe on the trademark, it should be fine.