Nearly half a million active “Scrabulous” users were surprised to find that their favorite Facebook application had been pulled from the social networking website. Perhaps even more surprising was that less than two days later, the application resurfaced with a slightly modified exterior under the name “Wordscraper.” One of Facebook’s most popular applications, the game’s creators estimated that the game was drawing ad revenues of up to $25,000 a month. It was clear from the outset that “Scrabulous” bore great resemblance to Scrabble. Given the ease with which a causal connection could be drawn between the game and the original source, it was not surprising that legal threats were issued by Hasbro claiming for copyright and trademark infringement.
Exhibiting just the right amount of differences to set it apart from its predecessor, “Wordscraper” is designed to prevent further legal concerns. Using different letter squares, bonus squares and quadruples scores, the new application boasts more fans than the original Scrabble. While some argue that the protection of board games fails to qualify within the general intention behind copyright, it is fair to state the outright infringement of copyright should not be condoned by Facebook. Nonetheless, given the wide array of applications available on the website it is more than likely to come across a few that bear a striking resemblance to already existing games. As such, claims of this nature are bound to come up more and more often.
One cannot help but wonder what, if any, will be the fate of such not so different applications. If the current case is any indicator, it is likely that they will disappear for a brief period of time only to reappear such that they are different enough so as to escape possible infringement claims. However, the return of any such application depends almost entirely on Facebook’s willingness to allow it. This hinges on the popularity of the aforementioned game or application. It has been mentioned that the speed with which Facebook reacted to the “Scrabulous” situation had much to do with the sheer popularity of the game. Considering the large number of applications that have proven unsuccessful, it is not surprising that Facebook would like to keep those that appeal to users and will keep them logged in. While copyright infringement claims will continue to surface on the social networking website, the manner in which they are resolved depends in large part on a number of factors such as the popularity of the game along with the relative ease with which it can be altered so as to make it different.