Friday, August 1, 2008

R.I.P. Scrabulous

Hi, Table Salt Games readers. I'm Will of Will and Beyond fame, and I'll be contributing a post approximately once a week to the site here.

In case you haven't heard of Scrabulous, it was a Facebook application where people can play Scrabble online with each other. Scrabulous was great because you could have so many games going at once with different people, and you didn't have to be online at the same time. Sometimes a game would take a few days to finish, other times it would take a couple months. It kept track of your ranking, and all the bingos you ever played.

Why was that paragraph written in the past tense? Because, as of recently, the Scrabulous application has been shut down by Facebook/Hasbro. Scrabulous was being put under a lot of legal pressure by Hasbro (who owns the US rights to Scrabble), since it was essentially a clone of Scrabble. It had been taken done one or two times here and there for a day or so, but never permanently, but this seems like it's for good.

The creators (two guys from India) have quickly put up an alternative game called WordScraper. They obviously anticipated the day when Scrabulous would get shut down, so they probably had this on the backburner just waiting for their d-day. From what I can tell, Scrabulous had ~600,000 daily users. For some reason, I can't imagine WordScraper reaching that status, but time will tell.

It's also worth noting, that Scrabulous is only shut down in the US and Canada, because Hasbro only owns the rights to Scrabble there; so you can still use it in other countries. Would it be worth setting up a proxy to make it look like I'm viewing Scrabulous from out of the country? No, because odds are very low that anybody else would.

I've mentioned on Will and Beyond before about how I love Scrabulous. Not just Scrabulous, but anything Scrabble-related. I'll still take a traditional game of Scrabble over anything else, but that's not always feasible. Some other great variations are Crapple, Anagram, Speed Scrabble, and Science Scrabble. Richard's already covered Speed Scrabble, and maybe I'll go into some of the others at a later time.

Photo: Flickr



Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard R. said...

You only told a half-lie Will. The game is not allowed in US and Canada. It seems like the proxy only tricks the computer to thinking you are out of the country.

Still, the fact that it was officially shut down sucks.

And I can forgive your half-lie since I like you so much.

Joel Kelly said...

science scrabble? what is this mysterious game?

we should play on it's got a java based real-time scrabble game that has been my fall-back since scrabulous got shut down.

Anonymous said...

Richard, the lie I was referring to was: "Would it be worth setting up a proxy to make it look like I'm viewing Scrabulous from out of the country? No, because odds are very low that anybody else would."

I was saying the prior, I figured I'd be too lazy to setup a proxy, but I did anyway.

Joel, Science Scrabble would take a little bit of explaining; I'll go into it more at a later time. I already play on; my username there is randomguy132, what's yours?

Anonymous said...

Er, scratch that, username is randomguy, randomguy132 was too long.

shawn said...

Regarding setting up a proxy to improperly access Scrabulous, you may wish to review the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, particularly Sections 1201(a) and 1201(a)(3)(A). The former provision criminalizes the act of "circumvent[ing] a technological protection measure that effectively controls access to a [copyrighted] work." It sounds to me like that's at least arguably what you'd be doing.

Regarding providing a link in your first comment to the aforementioned potentially infringing proxy technology/mechanism, you may want to review this article, which briefly describes the unsettled law regarding whether or not providing links to material that infringes a copyright is legal or illegal.

I can't say for certain whether doing either is legal or not (in part because I'm not sure, and in part because I haven't graduated law school yet or taken the bar exam let alone been admitted), but I can say that it's probably not a good idea to do what you've suggested as it at least raises some potentially serious questions. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

To start off, very well researched comment, it does indeed sound like law school is for you. Now, let's start crafting this response...

Firstly, yes, bypassing geographic restrictions is definitely violating copyright law, there's no denying that.

Secondly, to be fair, the link I gave doesn't actually give the instructions, but rather a link to the instructions, so it's really a link to someone that's 'breaking the law', but that's just splitting hairs.

Providing links to copyrighted material, as torrent sites do for example, is definitely legally questionable; will that stop me though? No.

My personal policy towards 'online illegalities' is to take it as far as I'm comfortable that I won't get caught. I realize that this isn't a moral approach, and I will never defend it as so, but I will probably keep it up for sometime.

However, given that this is not my site, Richard obviously has every right to edit out the link in my comment if he agrees with you, and I would take no offense to it.

Well, this was an enjoyable debate; feel free to followup if you feel so inclined, and I will respond in kind.

shawn said...

It is true what they say: no good deed goes unpunished.

I wasn't trying to debate you, I was trying to help, and demonstrate that what you were doing could possibly get you into legal trouble. But, if you don't care to accept that help, that is of course your prerogative.

For the record though, most people who break the law do so thinking they won't get caught. You however are one of the unique few who is foolish enough to (a) break the law, (b) admit that you do so intentionally, (c) broadcast that intention on a public website for all to see, and, in a final coup de grace, (d) claim that it is your "personal policy" to do so now and in the future.

Again, your policies are your own, and whether you're comfortable with the risks of those policies is your own business. If you don't get caught, then congratulations - you beat the system. However, if you do get caught, I'm sure that your "personal policy" will be amusing to those who catch you.

Richard R. said...

Hell, I know crap about the intricacies of law. I'll err on the side of caution and partial confusion.

I've seen more reputable sites like Gamespot and GameFaqs have forums that provide links to questionably illegal content (i.e. site for buying illegal mods for consoles) and never get prosecuted but, maybe they know something I don't.

Anonymous said...

Ah, well I misunderstood your tone, my mistake. Not much else to say then, so good day sir.

Well no, why would they bother prosecuting people who are linking to illegal material rather than going after the legal material itself; that's never gonna happen. Amen to partial confusion.

Anonymous said...

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