In Defense of Scrabble
Count me among those saddened by the loss of the Facebook application Scrabulous. It’s the sole reason I joined Facebook and (was) the primary reason I go there. Initially it was pretty buggy, and the interface wasn’t so hot and the servers were always down, but the creators kept improving it until it was a pretty slick little Scrabble clone.
Until, of course, the real owners of Scrabble finally stepped in. Now lots of people are whining about what jerks Hasbro and Mattel are and how they’re so out of touch with the internet community and how they really should be paying those Agarwalla brothers for their work instead of suing them.
I do agree with one of those ideas: Hasbro and Mattel are out of touch with the internet community, because the internet community is out of touch with the real world. In the real world, you don’t get to copy someone’s stuff and make money off of it. That’s called trademark infringement. Hasbro and Mattel have every right to sue those two for all the money they’ve made on Scrabulous.
Now, perhaps Hasbro or Mattel would be smart to hire the brothers (after the lawsuit’s over, of course). After all, they did a good job with Scrabulous, and those two companies could use the help since they’ve done so poorly on the computer front so far. But that doesn’t make it right to make counterfeits of someone else’s intellectual property.
If there’s one thing the internet has taught us, it’s that piracy is okay and that we can have everything for free. It’s certainly an appealing worldview, but I think for now I’d still prefer to live in the world where we have laws and consequences for actions and stuff. It may not be quite as cool a place to be, but it’s where I’d like to be if anyone ever tried to make money off of my stuff without permission (not that I have any ideas worth stealing, but that’s another issue).