Updated 7/29/08: Scrabulous has been disabled in Facebook for US and Canada users.
Hasbro, owner of the trademark for Scrabble, filed a lawsuit against the creaters of Scrabulous for trademark infringement via the Scrabulous Facebook application. A DMCA was also sent to Facebook to remove the application. I do not use the application (I rarely use Facebook) so I don’t care from a user standpoint. From a business standpoint this interested me. Electronic Arts and Hasbro formed an alliance and created a Scrabble application for Facebook that was launched recently. It still makes me ponder why they waited so long to do something. Scrabulous was launched on Facebook in 2006. This article explained a bit why this was:
Mr. Blecher said that EA had a “a brief conversation” with the Scrabulous creators about working together but that ultimately the company decided it wanted to control the game itself and develop it across various technology platforms.
This puts an entirely different spin on the general news floating around. Hasbro/EA didn’t all of a sudden, because they launched their own application, start legal proceedings. EA attempted to work with the Scrabulous team and decided to create their own application they could control themselves. That’s not abnormal or even odd since they were giving permission to create an application based on the game. The important part is EA tried to work something out.
Which means the Scrabulous team knew eventually they were going to be in trouble and continued to keep the game on Facebook.
What perplexes me even more is why Facebook allowed the application on their site in the first place? Is it that easy to have trademark/copyright infringement items placed on their service? With something as obvious as Scrabble why didn’t someone from Facebook ask that all so important question: Does the Scrabulous team have permission from the rights holder to create the game? If so, provide proof.
It’s that simple.
Another question: if the big guys have this much trouble maintaining their rights with Facebook does the little guy have a chance? Another question: how many other copyright/trademark violations are on Facebook?
One could argue that there is a debate whether Scrabulous indeed infringes on Hasbro’s trademark. When users describe it as Scrabble on Facebook I would say yes, there is indeed a problem.
I feel for all the people in mid-game because (to my knowledge) there isn’t a way to port the data over. For all of those that create applications, designs, content, etc. I hope Facebook takes it down quickly and allows the Scrabulous team and Hasbro to duke it out in court. Creation of games, applications, designs, content, etc. relies on the ability to maintain ownership over the rights to the item(s) created.