Monday, August 25, 2008

Scrabble Clone Pulled from Facebook

A popular Scrabble clone already pulled from Facebook in the U.S. and Canada continued its tumble over the weekend as the online hangout extended its block of the game throughout most of the world.

According to Facebook, the reason of blocking Scrabulous application because it was forced to disable Scrabulous after one of Scrabble's rights owners, Mattel Inc., made a formal removal request and the developers of Scrabulous took no action themselves.

Facebook has risked antagonizing a community of software developers it has been trying to nurture and promote. However, had it done nothing, it could have faced liability for copyright and trademark infringement.

Meanwhile, the Scrabulous application remains available in India, where its developers live and where Mattel has filed a lawsuit claiming violations of intellectual property. Facebook is not blocking Scrabulous there for now. Facebook still consider the question of ownership still a matter for Indian courts to resolve.

Facebook initially skirted that quandary after Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, the brothers in Calcutta who created Scrabulous, agreed to withdraw the program in the U.S. and Canada following a legal threat from Scrabble's North American owner, Hasbro Inc. Yet, Facebook had hoped for a similar resolution when Mattel, owner of Scrabble's rights elsewhere, sent a similar notice, but the Agarwalla brothers refused. Moreover, in a statement, Jayant Agarwalla said he found Facebook's action "astonishing" given the site's "claims to be a fair and neutral party." Undoubtedly, the bulk of his criticism was directed at Mattel, however.

Both Mattel and Hasbro have been trying to promote an authorized version of Scrabble for Facebook, made by Electronic Arts Inc. in the U.S. and Canada and by RealNetworks Inc. elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Agarwallas have released an alternative Scrabble-like word game called Wordscraper that was not influenced by Facebook's latest action. They are hoping that with new rules and circular tiles instead of square ones, Wordscraper can withstand legal challenges.

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