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Malicious attack takes down Scrabble on Facebook

July 29, 2008 |  4:04 pm

UPDATED: Thanks to readers who raised good questions Hasbro's legal claim (see below), we decided to ask Ian Ballon, a noted intellectual property and Internet attorney, for a lesson in copyright law. You can read his take here. In addition, Scrabble is now back up, but so is a new version of Scrabulous, called Wordscraper.

After their word game was shut down this morning, many of the Scrabulous faithful on Facebook turned to the official Scrabble game for some action. But they found no relief. It didn't work.

Electronic Arts, which created online Scrabble on behalf of Hasbro, said there was a good reason for that: Hackers had taken down the game. It was rendered unplayable for most of the day and still didn't work just before 4 p.m. In a statement, the Redwood City, Calif., game company said:

EA’s Scrabble Facebook game experienced a malicious attack this morning, resulting in the disabling of Scrabble on Facebook. We’re working with our partners to resolve this issue and have Scrabble back online and ready to play as soon as possible.

There was no word on whether the attack was orchestrated by fans of Scrabulous. But it dealt another public relations blow to Hasbro, which owns the North American rights to Scrabble. On the day that its legal tactics resulted in the shutdown of a game that the toy company said infringed upon its copyrights, it missed a prime opportunity to transition Scrabulous players to its own version of the game.

Hasbro, which last week filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York against the makers of Scrabulous, suffered a deluge of criticism on its Scrabble page on Facebook. Incensed at losing access to Scrabulous, users blamed Hasbro. One commenter, Lesley Marton, summed up the views of several players when she wrote on Scrabble's feedback board, "At least get things ironed out here before taking away Scrabulous!"

Analysts say the blow-back from Scrabulous fans, although painful now, will probably be temporary. "There are a lot of people who are just disappointed and angry at losing Scrabulous," said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst at Forrester Research. "But people are going to get over it over time. Many of them will adopt Scrabble."

Scrabble

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Scrabble for Facebook. Credit: Electronic Arts

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