Scrabulous puts tiles back in the bag

Responding to a takedown notice from Hasbro, the Facebook application’s creators shut down the game to players in the U.S. and Canada, where Hasbro owns the rights to Scrabble.

As of this morning, if North American users try to access the popular game, they will be greeted with the following message, “Scrabulous is disabled for U.S. and Canadian users until further notice. If you would like to stay informed about developments in this matter, please click here.” If you click, you will be redirected to a form asking for your email address to keep you informed of further developments. The note is signed by India-based Scrabulous creators Rajat Agarwalla and Jayant Agarwalla.

Hasbro followed in the footsteps of international Scrabble rights holder Mattel last week, when it sent Facebook a Digital Millennium Copyright (DMCA) notice requesting the service be removed from the site due to its similarity to their copyrighted board game. The company also filed suit against Scrabulous’s creators.

David Swain, a Facebook spokesman, said that Facebook forwarded the takedown notice to Scrabulous. “They decided in the middle of the night to disable the application in the U.S. and Canada.” He said the game is still available to Facebook users outside North America.

The Agarwallas issued a statement this morning saying, “In deference to Facebook’s concerns and without prejudice to our legal rights, we have had to restrict our fans in USA and Canada from accessing the Scrabulous application on Facebook until further notice. This is an unfortunate event and not something that we are very pleased about, especially as Mattel has been pursuing the matter in Indian courts for the past few months. We will sincerely hope to bring to our fans brighter news in the days to come.”

Scrabulous had 500,000 active players daily on Facebook, making it one of the most popular applications on the social networking site. Last month, Hasbro introduced a beta version of its official Scrabble game for Facebook but the scheduled release has been pushed from July to mid-August after users complained of issues such as an inability to log on and delays in loading.

In a statement issued this morning, Hasbro said it was aware of the problems and cited concern for players in its decision to wait several months before filing a lawsuit to shut down Scrabulous. “In deference to the fans, we waited in pursuing legal action until Electronic Arts had a legitimate alternative available. We invite SCRABBLE fans in the U.S. and Canada to log onto Facebook and try out the authentic SCRABBLE application, now in open beta. Both EA and Hasbro are monitoring feedback from fans, and we are already in the process of making changes that will result in a variety of improvements, including faster game play, leading up to the official launch scheduled for the first half of August.”

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