At a loss for words

Lisa Jemison
Lisa Jemison

I almost wasn’t going to write this signed editorial. I was afraid admitting what I’m about to admit might expose me as more of a nerd than I would like.

But in the end I had to write it. My choices were between a cheesy reflection on my past four years at Queen’s and a rambling piece on moral responsibility in which I reference Uncle Ben from Spiderman.

However, I decided admitting my word-geeky tendencies to the world was the best of all possible options, so here goes—my name is Lisa, and I’m addicted to online Scrabble.

Not admitting to it would be failing to reveal that I’m far from an impartial observer in this matter. My main procrastination method is at stake here because I spend more time playing Scrabble online than I do most other things in my life.

Or perhaps I should say I spend an unnecessary amount of time playing games with names very similar to Scrabble, but which aren’t actually because the games have illegally copied the world’s most popular word game without obtaining the proper licensing rights.

Last year, two brothers—Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla—uploaded their Scrabulous application to Facebook, inviting users to play Scrabble online with friends (or strangers).

You play at your convenience—the wait between turns can be days or, if you’re as much of an addict as myself, mere seconds—and you can show off your knowledge of obscure, high-scoring words with friends on the other side of the globe with whom you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to play.

According to a CBC report, it’s among the 10 most popular Facebook applications with almost 600,000 daily users. When the application’s popularity came to the attention of game makers Hasbro and Mattel, they asked Facebook to remove it.

I’m kind of torn here. Yes, the brothers who made the application are infringing on Mattel and Hasbro’s copyright. They aren’t, however, making any profit off of doing so. They’re encouraging people—people who might not otherwise be playing Scrabble—to engage in the word game.

A statement released by Hasbro suggests fans of Scrabulous instead use authorized online versions of the game. The only authorized version I can find, however, requires the user register and download a special interface.

I can sympathize with the Agarwalla brothers’ assertion they created Scrabulous because they were unsatisfied with any of the authorized versions of the game.

I can also sympathize with the legalities of the company’s concerns.

What both parties need to do is sympathize a bit with each other and reach some sort of compromise whereby the companies authorize the Scrabulous application or the Agarwalla brothers pay some sort of licensing fee to Hasbro and Mattel.

Barring a compromise, the only logical solution is for a representative from each side to sit down and duke it out over a winner-takes-all game of Scrabble.

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