Hasbro Attempting To Shut Down Scrabulous

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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Hasbro Attempting To Shut Down Scrabulous


Board-game manufacturer Facebook [http://www.hasbro.com/], and is taking steps to shut it down.

Fortune [http://www.scrabulous.com/]. But now Hasbro is taking action to have the Facebook application terminated.

"They sent a notice to Facebook about two weeks ago," Jayant said. "The lawyers are working on it." Currently, both the original Scrabulous site and the Facebook application are still available, and Jayant expressed hope that some kind of compromise could be reached, adding, "We're trying to work out some kind of deal."

While Scrabulous does generate large numbers of pageviews on Facebook, Jayant said the game wasn't cranking out massive amounts of money. He said Scrabulous revenues are currently over $25,000 per month, but refused to go into further detail.

Hasbro Electronic Arts [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/75834] that gave it exclusive worldwide rights to publish games based on various boardgame properties, including Scrabble, but there is no indication at this point that EA is involved with the action.


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raigan

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Feb 10, 2007
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Surely you can't patent or copyright something as abstract as the rules of a boardgame? They should just change the name and rearrange the board a bit.
 

King Phar

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Dec 29, 2007
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yeah it's been done and this just sounds stupid that they own a game played world wide like scrabble i mean.
 

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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Hasbro may be defined as "Evil Corporate Entity" in many people's books, but I support them in this. Some bright person came up with the rules and a board for a game that's now played world-wide, like scrabble. They deserve to get compensation for being able to provide so many people with entertainment. If they didn't, there'd be a lot fewer people looking to provide us with entertainment, and we'd all be worse off. Now part of that compensation is being able to sell the rights to the ongoing compensation to some other company, which, by investing in that inventor, certainly earns that company right to profit off of the work they've bought.

This is a lot different from people who "patent" something they've no intention of ever actually producing, and instead just wait for somebody else to go to the trouble of independantly coming up with, producing, and developing something similiar before they file a case.

Jayant and Agarwalla certainly can't claim they came up with the idea independantly, and nobody can claim that Hasbro hasn't been producing and marketing the game for people previously. Now if Hasbro had been sitting on the idea of scrabble, and just was involved in making it harder for people to play it? That'd be a different story -- but they're not.

However, I like that Jayant is saying it's not cranking out massive amounts of money and then saying it's bringing in 25,000/month. Perhaps it's not massive, but it's certainly significant -- I'd be more than happy to exchange my revenue for theirs.
 

Wildcard6

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Dec 14, 2007
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As game mechanics aren't something that are covered by copyright, the rules of Scrabble are open for use. The visual nature of the letters, and particularly the board, ARE subject to copyright and I suspect are central to Hasbro's complaint. They are certainly within their rights to go after whomever they choose, but as the people who will suffer are Scrabble fans, I doubt this is a smart move. I made the same argument when they shut down Google Earth Risk, a couple of years back. Hasbro is an old company and it behaves in a manner consistent with old companies, fighting the massive opportunities of the internet with every tool in their legal arsenal.

Hasbro: "Hey, we just shut down your free online Scrabble game, come pay us to play real scrabble."

Me: "FU, Hasbro."
 

CorvusE

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Sep 13, 2006
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"Some bright person came up with the rules and a board for a game that's now played world-wide, like scrabble. They deserve to get compensation for being able to provide so many people with entertainment."

Yes and in the case of Scrabble and a great many other games under the Hasbro umbrella, they didn't work for Hasbro when they designed the game. Hasbro bought the Scrabble trademark in... I want to say the late 80s or early 90s. The Scrabble concept was designed in the 30s.

I'm all for protecting intellectual rights, but I have it on good authority from more than one source that Hasbro's anti-competitive practices (i.e. aggressively working to ensure they have as little competition from indies as possible) make EA lawyers look like Winne the Pooh.
 

Anton P. Nym

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Sep 18, 2007
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Though I'm hardly one to support Hasbro's predatory tactics, I do have to say that calling a "Scrabble" knock-off "Scrabulous" is kinda baiting that bear. The copyright stand is soft (one would think that the mechanics will have lapsed into the public domain by now, after 75 or so years) but their defense of the trademark is a lot more straightforward.

-- Steve
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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Looking into it a little more, it seems the first version was invented in 1931 by a man named Alfred Butts. The original version had no board, and though offered to various game companies, met with no interest. It picked up the board and the cross-word element in 1938, but still found no interested producers. In 1948 it was revised, copyright and trademark applied, and began slow production by somebody called Brunot. Apparantly in 1953, the Chairman of Macy's played it some, liked it, and ordered Macy's to pick it up. Brunot couldn't meet demand so sold manufacturing to Selchow & Righter. 1968 he sold the rest of the rights, and in '86 S&R went bankrupt, their properties (including scrabble) picked up by Coleco, which promptly when bankrupt in '87 and the scrabble line moved on to Milton Bradley, a division of Hasbro.

Now, the point of this is, had Butts, Brunot, or S&R not had the ability to sell the rights -- which only occurs because the buyer thinks they can make a profit on it -- we might not have scrabble at all. So no, I don't blame Hasbro one bit for wanting to protect their rights on this, and having the ability to do so.

Though Anton makes a good point, the copyright protection probably isn't the main point so much as the trademark. Like Kleenex and Xerox, Hasbro almost has to go after these guys if it wants to be able to maintain the trademark on the game. Had they called it "Cross-Tiles" or something they may have been safer. They also may not have been as popular, but who can say for sure.

I'm not denying they may be being anticompetitive, but I think this is a good case in point of where a company has a right to be.
 

Dom Camus

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Sep 8, 2006
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I know very little about copyright and trademark law, but there's something else happening here which relates more to the way the internet works than to game designs.

I can invite a friend to my house and we could make a Scrabble set from pieces of card inside half an hour and play it as much as we like without paying Hasbro a cent. All the information required to do so is already in the public domain. Hasbro don't care, because they know that most people would rather spend $10 (or however much it is) on a proper set than take the time to make their own inferior set.

But on the internet, a programmer can put in the work to make a copy of the game once (admittedly taking longer) and then make it available to anyone. Free. Suddenly the path of least resistance is no longer to buy a real set, it's to play Scrabulous.

Hasbro themselves are becoming increasing interested in online gaming following the huge success of Magic the Gathering Online. They are definitely not going to turn a blind eye to third parties undermining their revenue opportunities.
 

devilondemand

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Dec 14, 2007
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Well I for one am hoping that Scrabulous is allowed to continue. It's one of the few things that gets me through the boring working day when I'm supposed to be hard at work.