By: Dr Tristan Jenkinson
I have written numerous times in the past about Craig Wright, most notably on his ongoing court case with Ira Kleiman. Wright is now taking action in the courts of England and Wales which could see a legal decision on Wright’s claim he is Satoshi Nakamoto – the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin.
The latest news (see for example this article from the Guardian) is that Wright has been granted permission to pursue a copyright claim against bitcoin.org, in part because they make available the original whitepaper which established bitcoin.
Wright’s Questioned Satoshi Credentials
Many in the cryptocurrency community are dubious about Wright’s claims to be Satoshi, not least because all of the offered proof has been demonstrated to be fundamentally flawed (some have suggested “provably fraudulent”).
To understand more of the background to Craig Wright’s claims, it may be worth looking back to the series of three articles (to date) that I wrote on the court battle between him and Ira Kleiman (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three).
The Satoshi Whitepaper
The bitcoin whitepaper (“Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”) authored under the name Satoshi Nakamoto laid out the approach for how bitcoin would work. It was originally discussed in a metzdowd cryptography user group and a pdf of the file was published to www.bitcoin.org. This can be seen from the original post, which can be viewed here.
Wright’s Cease and Desist Demands
In January 2021, Wright’s lawyers issued a number of cease and desist letters demanding that organisations stop hosting the bitcoin whitepaper. The recipients included Square Crypto, Bitcoin.org (now run by an individual with the username “Cøbra”) and Bitcoincore.org.
According to information from bitcoin.org, Bitcoincore.org removed the whitepaper, however, bitcoin.org said that they “believe these claims are without merit, and refuse to do so”. Bitcoin.org also points out that:
“The Bitcoin whitepaper was included in the original Bitcoin project files with the project clearly published under the MIT license by Satoshi Nakamoto”
Bitcoin.org provided a webpage archived by the Wayback Machine (an internet archiving system) from the Bitcoin Sourceforge page (where the code for bitcoin was published) from November 2009 which shows that the code was made available under an MIT License.
Bitcoin.org further stated that:
“Satoshi Nakamoto has a known PGP public key, therefore it is cryptographically possible for someone to verify themselves to be Satoshi Nakamoto. Unfortunately, Craig has been unable to do this”.
This is a point that I’ll return to shortly.
THE MIT License allows for very wide use. License text can be found at https://opensource.org/licenses/MIT, and includes text stating (my emphasis added):
“Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software”
As covered by Bitcoin.org, there appears to be clear evidence that permission for the paper to be published has already been given.
Square Crypto (another of the recipients of the cease and desist letter from Wright’s lawyers) is a member of the recently established Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance. The Alliance was announced by Square Crypto CEO Jack Dorsey by Tweet… obviously. You can find out more about COPA here.
On 5 February 2021, the alliance hit back against Wright’s cease and desist letter, stating (again, in a Tweet):
“COPA stands for an open financial system and was formed to remove barriers that stifle innovation. We are hosting the Bitcoin whitepaper and stand with our members and the crypto community to address this issue.”
The tweet also posted their response letter, which makes for interesting reading, not lease since it states:
“Should this matter proceed to litigation, your client would have to establish his entitlement to enforce the copyright in the White Paper. We understand from your letter of 21 January 2021 that he intends to do so on the basis that he was the author of the White Paper and is the owner of the copyright therein”.
i.e. If Wright wants to move forward, he is going to have to prove that he is Satoshi. As pointed out by Bitcoin.org, there is a simple way to do this – Satoshi has a known PGP public key – by signing something with the corresponding private key, or moving bitcoin from one of the early mined blocks which is accepted to be owned by Satoshi, an effective proof could be established.
COPA Fights Back
On 12 April 2021, COPA announced that they had initiated a suit “asking the UK High Court to declare that Mr Craig Wright does not have copyright ownership over the Bitcoin White Paper”. A copy of the claim form is attached to the Tweet, a copy of the content is below:
It is clear from the claim form above that the action sought by COPA goes further than just asking the courts to say Wright does not hold the copyright, seeking an injunction to stop Wright from claiming that he is the author of and owner of the copyright.
This could have wide repercussions. Because the white paper is known to have been written by Satoshi, any claim to be Satoshi would be a claim to be the author of the white paper, so this injunction could effectively stop Wright’s claims (or at least put him in legal jeopardy to continue them). It is unclear if such an injunction would be granted by the court.
The US Copyright
Effectively this means nothing. Anyone can file to register copyright on something, there is no verification on the part of the Copyright Office.
This did not stop Wright supporter Calvin Ayre from stating in a press release on 21 May 2021:
“Importantly, the registrations issued by the U.S. Copyright Office recognize Wright as the author – under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto – of both the white paper and code. This is the first government agency recognition of Craig Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin.”
Apparently in response, the US Copyright Office made clear that this was not the case in a press release on 22 May 2019 in which they stated:
“As a general rule, when the Copyright Office receives an application for registration, the claimant certifies as to the truth of the statements made in the submitted materials. The Copyright Office does not investigate the truth of any statement made.”
The US Copyright Office went on to say that:
“In a case in which a work is registered under a pseudonym, the Copyright Office does not investigate whether there is a provable connection between the claimant and the pseudonymous author.
In the case of the two registrations issued to Mr. Wright, during the examination process, the Office took note of the well-known pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto,” and asked the applicant to confirm that Craig Steven Wright was the author and claimant of the works being registered. Mr. Wright made that confirmation. This correspondence is part of the public registration record.”
Extraordinary Proof (is no proof at all)
It was noted earlier in this article, that both bitcoin.org and Square Crypto have pointed out that if Craig is Satoshi, he should be able to prove it…
As covered in a previous article back in May 2016, Wright provided what was promised to be “information that would allow others to verify that he is Satoshi Nakamoto”.
The “proof” offered on his blog page was demonstrated to be seriously flawed (and in the words of Nicholas Weaver and Dan Kaminski “provably fraudulent”).
Wright followed up with a blog post saying that he would transfer bitcoin from an early block – seen by many as the only thing that would realistically prove he was Satoshi.
But Wright didn’t go through with it – instead backing away and ultimately deleting not just the blog pages, but his entire blog site.
According to Andrew O’Hagan (in The Satoshi Affair) on the morning of the planned movement of bitcoin from an early block, Wright spoke to Gavin Andreson (who took over the reins of bitcoin from Satoshi), apparently raising a concern that moving bitcoin from an early block would be dangerous. O’Hagan states that his “sources say that Andresen understood the problem and confirmed that it was all right”.
O’Hagan says that Wright “was showing great reluctance about offering the final proof. Then he left the room abruptly and didn’t come back”.
O’Hagan continues to explain that the following day (5 May 2016), he received an email from Wright, linking to an article headlined “UK Law Enforcement Sources Hint at Impending Craig Wright Arrest”. O’Hagan quotes Wright as having written:
“I walk from 1 billion or I go to jail. I never wanted to be out, but if I prove it, they destroy me and my family. I am the source of terrorist funds as bitcoin creator or I am a fraud to the world. At least a fraud is able to see his family. There is nothing I can do.”
Wright has spent years loudly proclaiming that he IS Satoshi, including filing suits against those that suggest otherwise. He has now filed cease and desist letters to prominent cryptocurrency players on the basis that he IS Satoshi. This suggests that the above argument is something of a moot point. In turn, this does ask the question why Wright is not willing to give the proof that he has previously offered – which appears to be what Square Crypto and COPA are asking for.
The “UK Law Enforcement” Article
As discussed above, Wright appears to have used an article about him potentially being arrested as a reason to turn away from providing proof that he was Satoshi. But this article is not all it appears to be.
The article referenced by O’Hagan appears to be this article from Bitcoinist. The important thing here is the editor’s note, reproduced below:
Editor’s Note (5-6-2-16, 2:43 AM EST): The SiliconAngle piece cited in this article was produced by an impostor site posing as the real SiliconAngle. This source article does not appear on the real SiliconAngle website, and was not written by SiliconAngle reporter Collen Kriel. Bitcoinist would like to apologize to SiliconAngle and our readers for any confusion. To ensure that you are reading articles produced by the real SiliconAngle, make sure you are using the correct URL: www.siliconangle.com.
Ultimately, the source for the Bitcoinist article was a story on a fake site set up to look like Silicon Angle (with silicon incorrectly spelled with two l’s (sillicon). The (fake) base article can be seen on the internet archives here.
Some have speculated that this site was generated purely to enable Wright to provide the article as justification for walking away from proving he was Satoshi.
Wright’s History of Legal Action
Wright has a history of actively seeking legal action against those who question his claims to be Satoshi – for example issuing defamation suits against individuals who have claimed that he is not Satoshi or have directly (or indirectly) accused him of making fraudulent claims.
When looking at Wrights claims, the courts (and others paying attention to the case) may consider Wright’s previous actions which seem to demonstrate that he may be somewhat unreliable.
In the US court case against Ira Kleiman, there were numerous documents provided by Wrights legal team which have been analysed and appear to have been altered or fabricated. These include PDF copies of emails where the relevant dates have been altered, emails which appear to have been electronically signed by Dave Kleiman, but contain datestamps after Kleiman’s death, document signatures which do not match the signature of Dave Kleiman, but are very similar to a known font. Other examples include documents which are alleged to be from 2012, but contains a copyright notice for the Calibri font from 2015. Even the judge in the case found that Wright produced forged documents, and gave perjured testimony.
In addition, files which came to light in the Wright v Kleiman case, show that the Australian Tax Office found that Wright backdated invoices (and admitted doing so), as well as backdating director appointments and that his company (Coin-Exch Pty Ltd) acted recklessly.
If the courts are put in a position where they have to decide if Craig Wright is Satoshi, any decision is likely to be criticised. With both Wright and COPA seeking for courts to make such a decision, could there be a critical mass forcing such a decision to be made.
If so, how widely would such a decision be accepted and what impact would this have on other related legal action globally?
There are available routes for Wright to prove his claims, but given his actions in the past, this seems like an unlikely prospect.
I am sure that this will not be the last that we will hear of Craig Wright…