Toy makers Hasbro and Mattel are trying to shut down Scrabulous, the most popular online version of Scrabble today. Scrabulous was created by Indian brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla and attracts about half a million users per day. The game can be played on scrabulous.com, but most Scrabble lovers play it on Facebook, where Scrabulous is one of the top 10 applications installed. In december 2007, Hasbro sent a cease-and-desist notice to Facebook for breach of copyright.
It was only a matter of time when online Scrabble fans would start fighting back. Even though I do not believe that public pressure will impress Hasbro, there is already a new Facebook group called “Save Scrabulous! Give us Scrabulous or Give us Death!” with more than 2600 members on January 16. A Scrabulous petition can be signed on ipetitions.com, with about 300 signatures as of today. Customer service links on Hasbro and Mattel web sites were posted on the web so that Scrabulous supporters can utter their protest directly.
Hasbro (US, Canada) and Mattel (other countries) own the intellectual property rights to Scrabble worldwide. Since I joined Facebook, I have become a big Scrabulous fan and I had already asked myself whether this application was licensed from Hasbro, a company that took action against competitors in breach of copyright before. I am convinced that Hasbro’s legal claims are 100% vaild, and a disclaimer notice like this one will not let the makers of Scrabulous get away with breaching copyrights.
Talk, don’t sue!
Are take-down-notices and legal actions the right things to do in this situation? No information is available on the Hasbro and Scrabulous web sites, so we do not know whether the companies had entered into discussions about working toghether before. I would hope that Hasbro isn’t one of those non-flexible monopolic giants who prefer suing over negotiating.
Hasbro is missing out their biggest Scrabble promotion opportunity ever. Since I play Scrabulous online, we are again playing the Hasbro original game in our family. Fortunately I found the dusty Scrabble box in the attic, but if I hadn’t, I would have surely purchased one on Amazon.com.
This case shows again that many companies still don’t seem to get it. Either they adapt to the new princples of marketing, involving online marketing and – in this case – social networks, or they will soon be in serious trouble. It was estimated that the two Indian brothers cash in about 25.000 dollars each month in Scrabulous advertising revenue alone. Of course Hasbro as the rights owner to Scrabble needs to get their share of the pie, and the Agarwalla brothers would be stupid not to cooperate. Another big opportunity for Hasbro lies in promoting their hardcopy version of the game on the Scrabulous web site and Facebook application. With millions of users playing the game, Scrabulous built an amazing marketing machine for Hasbro. But rather than seeing their revenue opportunities, they are trying to kill it.
Helloooo! Hasbro! There is money to be made! Scrabulous is promoting your product! Just talk to them about working together. And let me continue with my current game please, I’m about to win…