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.