Don’t be surprised if overall productivity in the American workplace makes a steep climb in the next 24 hours. It seems fans of very popular Facebook application Scrabulous will have to find another way to goof off — at least on the social networking site.
Facebook users who logged on to play the game this morning were greeted with this prompt: “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.”
In the wake of Scrabble trademark holder Hasbro’s lawsuit, India-based creators (and brothers) Rajat Agarwalla and Jayant Agarwalla shut down North American access to the game sometime in the middle of last night, Facebook spokesperson David Swain told The New York Times. According to Swain, Scrabulous is still available to Facebook users outside the United States.
For those following the Scrabble scrap that erupted when Hasbro allowed Entertainment Arts to launch a sanctioned Scrabble game on Facebook earlier this month, the only real surprise here is that Scrabulous creators yanked the game themselves.
As part of its suit against Scrabulous, Hasbro requested that Facebook take action and remove the infringing game. However, the social networking site, which generally encourages original applications on its site, remains firmly out of the fray. “We’re trying to maintain just being a neutral platform,” Facebook’s Swain told the Times.
Hasbro’s beef against Scrabulous is bolstered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which basically outlaws technology used to produce or distribute anything that infringes on the intellectual property of an uninvolved party. Unfortunately for Scrabulous addicts, the facts are these: Hasbro holds the North American trademark to the 60-year-old board game, and Scrabulous, by its very name, make no bones over where it attained its inspiration.
While the law is firmly in Hasbro’s favor, it’s unfortunate that the company chose the litigious route in its dealings with Scrabulous. Many Scrabulous fans who’ve attempted to try the Hasbro Scrabble application are reporting their disappointment in blogs and chat rooms across the Internet, adamant that it’s not nearly as easy to use or as fun as the Scrabulous version.
Meanwhile, Scrabulous isn’t the first to fall victim to blurred lines of ownership created by the Internet and no doubt it won’t be the last. As evidenced by the Agarwalla brothers, end users often have a better feel for how old school technology and information may best be applied to the digital kingdom. Perhaps the more productive and beneficial route for everyone would involve a business deal between Hasbro and the Scrabulous creators, rather than Hasbro going with EA.
Still, the EA version seems to have its fans, as many found the application crashing on Facebook this morning — perhaps from too much traffic by panicked Scrabulous players. Meanwhile, North Americans can still play Scrabulous at the Web site, Scrabulous.com, which is still functioning … for now.