I learned earlier today that Scrabulous, a popular online version of the Scrabble board game, has been shut down on Facebook in Canada and the United States and I’m not sure what to think. The news didn’t come as a total surprise as I’d heard some time back that Hasbro, the company that owns the rights to Scrabble in Canada and the U.S., was considering legal action against the creators of Scrabulous for copyright infringement. There’s no question in my mind that it is, indeed, copyright infringement as the online game is pretty much identical to the original. Ethically, I realize that Hasbro has every right to bring legal action against Scrabulous but my problem lies in the fact that I’m one of the more than half a million people a day who love playing the game and I’m going to miss it terribly!
Scrabulous is actually still available to we Facebook users who live outside Canada and the U.S. but everyone I play the game with is in one of those two countries. When I think about the fact that I’ve only been using Facebook since January and didn’t even know that Scrabulous existed before that time, it seems silly that I find it’s demise so disturbing but it’s been one of the ways that I’ve maintained contact with some of my friends back home and that’s why I’ll miss it so much.
Mattel, the company that owns the rights to Scrabble outside Canada and the United States, is also pursuing legal action in the Indian courts against the creators of Scrabulous, two brothers who live in that country, so it’s probably only a matter of time until access to the game is shut down worldwide. Apparently both Mattel and Hasbro have official versions of Scrabble on Facebook but my understanding is that they aren’t nearly as good as Scrabulous and when I tried to sign up for Scrabble Beta today, I learned that it isn’t available to players in Japan. It’s the version that Canadian and American players are switching over to so I’m assuming that it’s the one that Hasbro has authorized. In other words, my Scrabulous friends and I probably don’t have access to the same version because we’re on opposite sides of the ocean. Darn! I guess I’ll just have to hope that the games companies and the Scrabulous creators can eventually come to an agreement that will allow the game to resurface. In the meantime, I’ll have to go back to playing Scrabble against the computer. Fortunately, I brought the CD with me!