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'Copyright' Is A Twenty-Point Word

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"Copyright" is a Twenty-Point Word

Milan Alley

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In the depths of the Great Depression (okay, 1931), architect Alfred Mosher Butts began designing Lexiko in response to the observed decrease in interest of word-based games. Butts meticulously analyzed the frequencies of letters in newspapers and other printed works to create the ideal letter distribution for his game. Played with a set of one hundred square, cardboard tiles, but no board, players would draw at random nine tiles and attempt to construct words from their choices. In 1938, Butts began work on a variation of Lexiko, which he called "Criss-Cross Words," and added a 15-by-15 square game board and crossword-style game play. Several game manufacturers rejected the game design, but Butts was able to sell copies on his own. Unfortunately Butts' profits were not enough to recover his development expenses. Therefore, in 1948 he sold the rights to game-lover and Newtown, Connecticut lawyer James Brunot. Brunot made several minor adjustments to the design, simplified the rules, and renamed the game "Scrabble," a word which means "to grope frantically."

If the word "Scrabble" is brought up in any conversation, thoughts turn automatically to the board game. With over 100 million sets of the game having been sold in 29 different languages, it is probably one of the most well known and widely owned board games ever. You can play "Scrabble" on your computer, you can play "Scrabble" while you travel, you can even play an electronic, handheld version of the game. Now, if you have a Facebook, you can add the Ð''Scrabulous' application, and play the game while you wait for Honesty Box messages, or RSVPs to an event.

One would think, that the "Scrabble" empire would be overjoyed at the popularity of the foundation of their company, correct? However, Hasbro and Mattel aren't too pleased that a pair of twenty-something Calcutta, India-based brothers, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla has created a free spin-off of their popular and timeless game. And, unfortunately for the brothers' Agarwalla, the similarities between "Scrabble" and Ð''Scrabulous' are clear-as-crystal. You'd have to be struck deaf, dumb, and blind not to see why Hasbro and Mattel are irked. To add insult to injury, Ð''Scrabulous' hosts advertisements, meaning that its creators are earning money off the concept. What the two companies really ought to do is step back and realize that they can use Ð''Scrabulous' to their own advantage; and they can do this without enraging millions of fans by removing the viral game from Facebook.

The Pros and Cons of Ð''Scrabulous'

Pros Cons

New interest in "Scrabble" "Scrabble" has been Around for Years

Easy to Access Procrastination Tool

Free Agarwalla's Getting Paid for Something that's not Their Intellectual Property

Hi-Tech Variation on a Classic Copyright Infringement

Simple Concept Almost too Easy to Play After a While

"Scrabble" legally is the intellectual property of Hasbro and Mattel. Intellectual property (as defined by the Cornell University Library Internet Database) refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. However, the website of the United States Copyright Office clearly states that the copyright does not extend to the idea for a game, the name or title of a game, the trademark material involved in development and merchandising, or the method(s) for playing it. Copyright of a game protects only the certain manner of a creator's illustration in literary, artistic, or musical form(s). Once a game has been made public, there is no copyright law preventing others from creating another similar game. Select material created in connection with a game (such as the text describing the rules, or the pictures appearing on the game board or container) may qualify for copyright only if it contains an adequate quantity of literary or pictorial expression. Then, and only then can a company copyright it, but it still must be registered separately.

If Hasbro chooses to take legal action against Ð''Scrabulous' creators (which seems highly likely to happen) it'll have a very strong case, as Ð''Scrabulous' mirrors "Scrabble" almost letter-for-letter. Need more proof? The "Rules of Ð''Scrabulous' " section of the game's FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) redirects to Wikipedia's page for "Scrabble."

" Ð''It wouldn't be an issue if

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