Ideas for boycotting Scrabble and Hasbro

Do you feel that Hasbro’s lawsuit against Scrabulous was rather heavy-handed? Did you enjoy Scrabulous’s revival of a 60-year-old game, and do you resent Hasbro’s free-riding off of the innovators who made Scrabulous? Is it uncool that Hasbro used Scrabulous to make Scrabble more popular, and then sued the Scrabulous developers once Hasbro developed an official Facebook app?

Then perhaps it is time that you began boycotting Hasbro’s Scrabble, in all its forms. Why not:

  • Refuse to use official Scrabble online games - Let’s face it, they’re not as good as Scrabulous was, anyway. You can join the Facebook group We refuse to use official Scrabble app since Hasbro shut down Scrabulous or probably a dozen others like it.
  • Continue playing Scrabulous anyway – Hasbro does not own the copyrights to Scrabble outside the USA and Canada, some other company does. So, if you connect to Facebook from an IP address located outside the US and Canada, then you can continue playing Scrabulous just like the good old days. This Facebook group has easy instructions on how to do so, by connecting to Facebook through a proxy server. A silver lining to this lawsuit might be getting more people using the Firefox web browser and the FoxyProxy add-on.
  • Avoid buying products from Hasbro – Do you really need a new Scrabble board? Aren’t there a gazillion Scrabble boards floating around people’s attics and garage sales that you could pick up for a song? Same thing goes for other Hasbro games! Exercise your first sale rights and buy used games instead.
  • If you have a Scrabble board, don’t play Scrabble on it, play a different word game - What’s so good about the exact copyrighted version of Scrabble anyway? The Scrabulous developers realized this and released the more flexible Wordscraper, a Scrabble-esque game that lets you change the board/rules. If you have a physical Scrabble board, there are innumerable word games you could play with it. You could use the tiles to play Anagrams, a lovely fast-paced party game that predates Scrabble, or perhaps even Bananagrams. Or, create your own entirely new word game, and go down in history as the inventor of something even better than Scrabble!
  • Make your own Scrabble-esque boards - Why buy it when you can make it yourself? The tiles might be a bit tricky (although a RepRap 3d printer would probably make short work of it once it’s generally available to the public) but it should be child’s play to draw a grid and fill in the boxes with double word scores or more interesting variations.

Honestly, Hasbro’s rent-seeking with the Scrabble copyright is a really annoying example of how copyright can hinder creativity rather than encouraging it. Scrabble was invented in 1938, and sold by the creator in 1948 to someone who could commercialize it (not Hasbro, Hasbro bought the copyright much later around 1986). How much real innovation has been done since then with Scrabble by people who benefit from the copyright royalties? Isn’t it telling that the innovators here innovated without benefiting from copyright controls or copyright royalties? This is a clear case of copyright outlasting its usefulness. Perhaps more importantly, I think it’s rotten that Hasbro is shutting down Scrabulous for bringing Scrabble to life again for a new generation… that’s not a proper reward. I’d love to send a message to Hasbro that their behavior is really uncool. Just because Hasbro has the legal power to shut down Scrabulous doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do, either for their bottom line (see the Economist’s cautious endorsement of piracy) or for creativity in the field of gaming.

Leave Yours +


  1. I must confess to feeling sorry for Hasbro on occasions for their stupidity. Now if someone told me Scrabulous was a “plant” funded for Hasbro I’d be impressed – all generated by an idea from some off the wall “social media” agency – then I’d laugh out loud..

    Not only have they benefited from increased sales of Scrabble – it’s practically been relaunched, they also sell a million plus copies per year so their brand isn’t doing too bad and instead of applauding the innovation they stamp all over it.

    I’m commenting as an indie board game publisher of the award winning party game GiftTRAP, which is built on the back of Creative Commons licenses, so I’m a huge supporter of this “mix it up” school. The CC guys have have really supportive of our game and we couldn’t have made our game a success without it. Yet success is all about attention and you’d think Hasbro would get that.

    To me it’s a crime to “kill” the attention Scrabulous has given them. Was Hasbro really thinking people wanted to switch to a legal version of their game. I laughed when I read a defensive quote from Hasbro saying they “will continue to innovate on Scrabble” – (oh I forgot about the Onyx version)

    I’ve published a Facebook app of my game ( ) and so I know how hard it is. Launching a virtual gift-exchange game a year after Free Gifts and Facebook Gifts have delivered 150 million virtual gifts is huge. Social media sites like Flickr, LinkedIn, Boardgamegeek and Facebook have been our saviour in getting our game to market. To get attention it’s all about timing and story.

    People don’t just use the apps because they are there. The edgyness and illegality of the Scrabulous game was half the attraction. Facebook has dampened the impact of apps and users have lost their curiosity. I’m not surprised with 30k apps on offer.

    I’d trade in our “Best Party Game” award for a share of their attention but it doesnt happen that way.

    What I dislike most about the big game companies is they don’t really have to try. It’s not about the games anymore (we don’t need more new copies of the same old stuff), it’s about the control of the channels to market. Consumers just keep buying monopoly spinoffs, Onyx scrabble sets and the list goes on. How many times can people buy the same games. is a great place to look for truly great games and read what real people think.

    Just please don’t buy any licensed/branded games – “Some sad Shrek Game” or “Desperate Housewives Trivia.”. Just like buying a good book make sure if you buy a game that is has awards and great reviews form trusted sources. These “cookie cutter” games have no innovation and you’ll pretty much play them once and forget them if you are lucky.

    The problem or the miracle of something like Scrabble/Monopoly etc is that it’s become a self repeating part of culture. It’s almost genetic.

    So go on break the mold and go buy an indie game. Even better buy one in the summer and really buck the trend!

  2. Splois Politica

    Alright peoples. This is becoming a bit ridiculous right now. You’re saying, in essence, that Hasbro is a company that was whining that somebody was ripping off their own patented, copyrighted, and trademarked name. Look who’s whining now.

    And, anyhow, this whole Scrabulous game was illegal under American anti-ripping-off laws. You Facebook people are lucky you guys got to use the game for that long.

    So, look, I know it’s so terribly hard for you people to not break the law on a day-to-day basis, but when the law does justice, the least you could do is swallow your pride and admit that what you guys did was wrong. Stop this infernal whining about boycotting Hasbro and all that other stuff. After all, it’s no one above the law.

    See, this is why we’re doomed. You guys think that your leisure activities are above the law. You guys are just being another Bull Connor. Yes, to some, and note that I say some, degree, you guys are like racists. I know that’s harsh, but I don’t want you guys to take this the wrong way. You guys are like racists in the unlawful sense. Come on, guys. You all know that Hasbro has every intellectual property right it has under their buckle, and using Scrabulous is a depravation of their ip rights, just because you people feel like it. Just like those racist people who depraved the African-Americans of their rights just because they felt like it.

    So, PLEASE, stop with all of these whining. If you guys break these somewhat trivial intellectual property laws and think you can get away with it, what law will you be breaking next?

    Which is precisely my point. This is just going to lead us into another lawless and barbarious stage of human history. So show some respect for the law, and remember, no one above the law.

    Sheesh, and you guys are the people who want to impeach Bush for Iraq and wiretapping and torture.

    Sure, the whole Scrabulous thing isn’t as bad as that, but a sin is a sin, you know.

  3. Pingback: Our Scrabulous Affair « Andy on the Road

  4. It seems like something is missing, no?

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