Sunday, May 25, 2008


André Mora, a reader from Seattle, is an avid player of the online word game Scrabulous, which he plays on the Facebook networking site. He feels torn, however, because the developers of Scrabulous designed their game to replicate the board game Scrabble -- without seeking permission from Hasbro, which owns the rights to that game.

"Discussions" between Hasbro and the developers of Scrabulous are ongoing, but in the meantime my reader and others are left to sort things out for themselves: Is Scrabulous a legitimate game in its own right, or an infringement on Hasbro's rights to Scrabble? And, if the latter, is it OK to continue playing Scrabulous, even if you believe that it was wrong for the company to have developed the game without Hasbro's consent, or should you stop playing Scrabulous until a Hasbro-approved version is available?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at

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Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

Federal laws are designed to protect intellectual properties, defined as creations of the mind, from inception to creation, which include musical, literary, and artistic works, inventions, symbols, names, images, and other visible designs distinguishing similar brands or lines from each other.
Infringement results when the similarities between them are indistinguishable, attributable to duplication or imitation, which erodes profits for valid copyright, trademark, and patent holders. Intellectual property laws ensure that they retain the rights to their products, which cannot be duplicated or copied in such a way that they are indistinguishable from similar ones. Litigation will involve Hasbro and Scrabulous developers presenting the origins of their creations and determining who created and obtained protection for said properties first. Whoever did so first prevails.

Anonymous said...

There is alo a deoctrien cale "Fair Use" whichgtaikes into account th degr4ee to whic h the "infiornegrws" use con fuses the puboic and redices th profitability of the original owners use of the copyrighted product. This ganwe is free, and it will be a surporse of Hasbro can show they ahve lost sales due to "Scrabulous."

I have begun to wonder what the business model is for these "free" apps in facebook--perhapss this will shed some light on this enigma!