Commentary

Scrabulous Creators Debut Wordscraper

Scrabulous fans who were abruptly forced into withdrawal Tuesday, when Facebook capitulated to Hasbro's demands to clear the site of the Scrabble knock-off, have reason for optimism today. The creators of Scrabulous, Indian brothers Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, have launched a Facebook application, Wordscraper, that some users say is a good substitute.

With more than 500,000 daily players, Scrabulous, launched in June 2007, was one of Facebook's most popular apps. Some observers also credited the online word game with renewing people's interest in the offline version of the game.

But Hasbro didn't see the upside. In January, Hasbro began threatening the creators with trademark and copyright infringement suits -- then, last week, finally filed suit. The company also demanded that Facebook remove the game, which happened Tuesday morning.

The copyright infringement claim is iffy, because it's not clear that board games like Scrabble can even be copyrighted. But trademark infringement seemed stronger, given that Scrabulous had a very similar look to Scrabble.

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The new game, which uses circular tiles instead of square ones and has a different scoring system, might well get around the legal pitfalls of Scrabulous.

Meantime, more than 3,500 Facebook users signed up for Wordscraper this morning alone. Hasbro also recently launched an official version of Scrabble for Facebook, which debuted to mixed reviews, but has managed to garner more than 60,000 users.

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