A Question of Intent

So, a new test of the “inducement” theory of secondary copyright infringement? After all, the fact that Wordscraper doesn’t make it impossible for users to mimic the classic Scrabble board may be enough — especially if there’s a provable “intent:” On Facebook, an 11-Letter Synonym for Scrabulous Turns Out to Be Wordscraper

People who were addicted to playing Scrabulous on Facebook have migrated by the thousands to Wordscraper, a Scrabble-like game created by the two brothers who built Scrabulous, Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla. Last week the brothers removed Scrabulous from Facebook.com for North American users because of a lawsuit from Hasbro, which owns the North American rights to Scrabble.

Unfortunately for Hasbro, players are not universally flocking to Hasbro’s official Scrabble game. Instead thousands are downloading Wordscraper, which has been available on Facebook since January but attracted little attention until Scrabulous shut down, and heading to their old favorite, Scrabulous, on the game’s independent Web site at www.scrabulous.com. Wordscraper had about 80,000 daily users on Facebook as of Sunday night and the Web site Scrabulous.com had thousands of players online on Sunday.

Hasbro’s official version of Scrabble on Facebook, meanwhile, has registered about 91,000 registered users, while a version from Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble outside of North America, has less than 15,000.

Unlike Scrabulous, which exactly mimics a Scrabble board, Wordscraper lets players pick a board size and put high-scoring spaces wherever they like — meaning that they can, if they choose, create an exact replica of a Scrabble board.