July 31, 2008


Scrabulous brothers launch new Facebook game: Wordscraper (Jemima Kiss, 7/31/08, guardian.co.uk)

The two brothers behind Scrabulous, the unofficial online version of Scrabble that has become a hit among among Facebook users, launched a new online word game last night - Wordscraper.

Developers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla launched Wordscraper worldwide less than 48 hours after being forced to take their original creation, Scrabulous, offline in the US and Canada in response to a lawsuit from Hasbro.

'Scrabulous' gets a nip-tuck, returns as 'Wordscraper' (Caroline McCarthy – July 30, 2008, C-Net)
The reason for Scrabulous' extreme makeover has its roots in some pretty gray legal matters: the real problem wasn't that it ripped off Scrabble, but that it ripped off Scrabble so blatantly. The colors of the board were the same, the list of rules led to a Wikipedia entry for Scrabble rules, and the two names were similar enough for Hasbro to cry foul.

On Wednesday I spoke to Pete Kinsella, a partner at the Faegre & Benson law firm who specializes in intellectual property, and he gave me his take on the gritty details. "Copyrights are not supposed to protect board games," Kinsella explained. "What copyrights protect is the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself."

Returning as Wordscraper is a way for its creators to keep the game running while avoiding legal complaints. In effect, it's just different enough.

"I think there's a very fine line to walk in this one, and the question is whether Scrabulous went over the line or not in mimicking the colors or everything else," Kinsella assessed (keep in mind that we had this conversation before the advent of Wordscraper), "or whether they could've designed a generic version of the game with the same points system and scoring system, and that would've fallen out of Hasbro's copyrights."

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 31, 2008 7:28 AM
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