The Facebook game, Scrabulous, is an obvious copy of Scrabble, published on Facebook, without permission by Hasbro, the rights owner of the popular game. This unauthorized use capitalizes on the work of Hasbro in promoting and marketing the game, and is unfair to the company. It is pretty much outright theft.
Facebook was violating Hasbro's intellectual property. Facebook is a billion dollar corporation and can afford to license Scrabble from Hasbro. It would be one thing if Facebook was a small mom and pop company and didn't have the money for a protracted legal fight. But, Facebook could afford to fight a lawsuit, had they thought they were in the right.
Listen, who cares, really? This is a silly application on a social networking site. However, I will say that the name was really close to Scrabble, and, of course, the gameplay is nearly identical. If you run Hasbro, then this was the right move. It is bad for business to willingly allow someone to steal your ideas, and then sell them under almost the same name. So, do I really care? No, but Hasbro did the right thing in taking care of business.
Our economic system is based on a set of well-defined property rights. The more well-defined and transferable, the better off everyone is. Intellectual property is no different. Scrabble belongs to Hasbro, and Scrabulous is simply a sly way for someone to poach money off of Hasbro's property. We must always protect this right.
Hasbro felt that Scrabulous was infringing on Hasbro's intellectual property. They have a duty to fight this. Facebook may or may not have done the right thing by the removal, but Hasbro did the right thing. Hasbro would have done well to bring a lawsuit, and I think should sue. The name of the game Scrabulous is incomprehensible if you've never heard of Scrabble. The play is apparently similar to Scrabble. Would Scrabulous exist if not for Scrabble? Scrabulous appears to be a rip-off of Scrabble to me.
The Agrawwal Brothers, the creators of Scrabulous, did not get the rights to Scrabble before launching their game on Facebook. Given that both names sound similar to each other, and the game play is largely the same, Hasbro was bound to get involved. Hasbro did the right thing by just demanding the game be removed. They could have sued for damages and taken the issue to court. Instead, they just asked for the game to be removed.
In the legal sense, Hasbro owns the game Scrabulous. They therefore were entirely justified for demanding the game be removed from Facebook apps. They even would have had the right to take the issue to court; a cease and desist order would have been entirely warranted. The fact that they didn't take it that far is great.
Hasbro did the right thing by demanding Scrabulous be taken off Facebook; they are the owners of Scrabble and anything associated with Scrabble, therefore they are allowed to do what they want with it. Scrabulous was not licensed by Hasbro, therefore Facebook had no right using it in the first place.
Hasbro, the owner of the Scrabble franchise also owns the electronic rights to the game. It recently sold those right to Electronic Arts. Nonetheless, Scrabulous, the wildly popular game created by the Agrawwal Brothers did not receive any licensing rights from Hasbro. Due to the similarity of the games it is likely that there is some level of copyright infringement.
Generally, a company should not pursue legal means to fix a problem which can be resolved by social, creative, and technological means. For example, if Hasbro could have started a campaign to switch over users to its own Facebook game and to make it even more engaging, that would be ideal. But since Scrabble is only so complicated, online networks experience emergent monopolies where multiple very similar games are not needed, first-movers often take the majority of users, and the name Scrabulous suggests that it might be directly related to Scrabble. Thus, Hasbro had no choice but to demand it be taken down.
Hasbro did not take any action until after its decision to launch its own "Scrabble" application. Many foreign countries such as India have millions of "Scrabulous" players who enjoy this word game immensely. The two games are not identical, and Hasbro may have legal rights to Scrabble, but I do not think this extends worldwide to all similar word games. This makes me think of the lawsuit George Gershwin filed against Mad magazine for its printed parodies of song lyrics. The Supreme Court said, "Mr. Gershwin does not own iambic pentameter." Similarly, Hasbro does not own the crossword word game format, only its copyrighted game.
Anyone is allowed to post what they want on the Internet. To make sure the Internet remains a free space for people to express themselves, there should be no pressure on someone whose views differ from the norm. This game was inappropriate, but it should be up to Facebook users to choose whether or not to play it.
Scrabble is one of my favorite games and it is addictive. Since learning to play, I have several versions of the game, play on-line and buy the new versions that come out. I also played Scrabulous. I think, while Hasbro was worried about Scrabulous taking gamers away from their sites, the reality is that Scrabble players play every version of Scrabble they can get their hands on. Scrabulous introduced new people to Scrabble, players who likely would jump on board with lots of versions of the game.