Craig Wright Registers a Copyright for Bitcoin’s (BTC) White Paper and Code: the Implications of This Copyright and Why Bitcoin’s Decentralization Will Save the Day

May 22, 2019 / by Zachary Mashiach

Craig Wright has registered copyrights for the original Bitcoin (BTC) code and the Bitcoin white paper with the United States Copyright Office. Further, Craig Wright has claimed in these copyrights that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.

The Bitcoin white paper was originally published by Satoshi Nakamoto in the latter half of 2008, with the code becoming public the day the Bitcoin network launched on Jan. 3, 2009. A decade later it is unconfirmed who exactly Satoshi is. Satoshi went to great lengths to keep his identity anonymous, and he disappeared near the end of 2010 without any formal announcement regarding his departure.

Since then, there have been many theories regarding who Satoshi is, with the primary suspects being Hal Finney, Dave Kleiman, and Wright. Over the years, Wright has claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto numerous times. The most compelling evidence came from early Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen, who met Craig Wright in person. Wright supposedly showed Andresen proof that he is Satoshi.

However, in order to verify this claim, the community demanded that Wright sign a message with the private key from the genesis block or any other wallet known to be controlled by Satoshi. A signed message from the genesis block would be irrefutable evidence that Wright is Satoshi and would bring the debate to an end.

Wright posted a message signed with one of Satoshi’s keys, but it was found to not be a legitimate signed message. Craig Wright has since then refused to deliver a message signed with Satoshi’s private key.

The community remains rightfully skeptical regarding Wright being Satoshi. This has not stopped him from claiming to be Satoshi in recent months with increasing fervor. Twitter user Hodlonaut, who was popular for inventing the Bitcoin Lightning Torch, posted some tweets regarding Wright not being Satoshi. Wright threatened Hodlonaut with a libel lawsuit and demanded that Hodlonaut delete the tweets and to make a new post saying “I was wrong to allege Craig Wright fraudulently claimed to be Satoshi. I accept he is Satoshi. I am sorry Dr. Wright. I will not repeat this libel.” Hodlonaut ended up deleting his Twitter account, causing an uproar in the crypto space that resulted in Bitcoin SV (BSV) being delisted from Binance and Kraken.

Now, this situation has culminated in Wright obtaining the copyright for Bitcoin’s code and white paper, with the United States Copyright Office recognizing Craig Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto.

Wright has stated that he will transfer ownership of the copyrights to the Bitcoin Association, which owns the Bitcoin SV (BSV) software. This has caused Bitcoin SV (BSV), aka Bitcoin Satoshi Vision, to rally 125% from $62 to $140 before dropping to around $100 as of this writing. Wright claims that Bitcoin SV (BSV) is Satoshi’s/his real vision for Bitcoin and that actual Bitcoin (BTC) has strayed far from this vision.

What Do These Copyrights Mean and What Are the Implications?

Wright submitted proof of being Satoshi Nakamoto to the United States Copyright Office that was deemed acceptable, and now Craig Wright holds the rights to Bitcoin’s code and white paper. Even though copyright law does not have jurisdiction for inventions and discoveries or public domain materials, the actual coding and white paper are considered literary works and therefore can be copyrighted by the author.

A literary work is protected under copyright laws from the moment it is created, but in order to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement, copyright registration is required. Therefore, the only purpose of registering a copyright is to sue people for infringement.

Technically Wright can now sue anyone who uses Bitcoin’s code or has modified Bitcoin’s code for another project. Almost all altcoins use Bitcoin’s code to some extent, and now they could theoretically be sued for damages by Wright for using Bitcoin’s code. Further, Wright can even sue the Bitcoin core developer team for using the original Bitcoin code.

Indeed, Wright has been adamantly against the decisions of the Bitcoin core developer team, especially the implementation of SegWit and the possibility of additional privacy features in the future.

It gets even worse. Theoretically, Craig Wright can begin charging people to use Bitcoin and would be able to sue anyone who uses Bitcoin without paying. Uploading or downloading copyrighted works is illegal without the copyright owner’s consent. Bitcoin inherently uploads and downloads Bitcoin’s code between full nodes in order to function.

The good news is that if Wright were to sue anyone for infringing the Bitcoin copyrights it would have to be done via a civil lawsuit, and therefore the defendants would have a chance to prove in court that Craig Wright is not Satoshi.

Unfortunately, the law for misrepresenting facts when applying for copyright registration is quite weak. According to section 506 of the United States Copyright Law, “Any person who knowingly makes a false representation of a material fact in the application for copyright registration provided for by section 409, or in any written statement filed in connection with the application, shall be fined not more than $2,500.”

Therefore, Wright would only be fined $2,500 if he sues someone for copyright infringement and then is proven to be lying about being Satoshi in court.

Bitcoin’s Decentralization Saves The Day

It is unlikely that Wright will win any cases involving infringement of these new Bitcoin copyrights since defendants in such a case would be able to demonstrate that Wright has not provided a message signed with Satoshi’s private key nor has Craig Wright posted from Satoshi’s Bitcointalk account. However, let’s assume that Craig Wright is able to successfully sue whomever he wants for using Bitcoin’s code and white paper.

Bitcoin is highly decentralized. There are over 10,000 Bitcoin full nodes in the world and many more Bitcoin miners who ensure decentralization. It is not possible for any government or entity to halt the Bitcoin network or bring regulations upon it. Therefore, Wright will not be able to stop anyone from using Bitcoin even in the worst case scenario.

Further, the development process for Bitcoin is decentralized, with developers all over the world participating in the development process. Any changes to Bitcoin’s code also have to be accepted by the decentralized network of miners. Therefore, Wright would not be able to change Bitcoin’s code or stop development. The same is true for most major cryptocurrencies which use fragments of Bitcoin’s original code.

Why Did Craig Wright Copyright Bitcoin?

It is only speculation that Wright would ever sue someone for infringing on the copyrights for Bitcoin’s code and white paper. Indeed, such a lawsuit would create tremendous bad blood towards Wright.

There is another possible reason that Craig Wright copyrighted Bitcoin. He is in a legal battle with the family of Dave Kleiman over the ownership of 1.1 million Bitcoins. Apparently, Craig Wright and Dave Kleiman worked together during the early days of Bitcoin and mined 1.1 million Bitcoins together, and Wright never gave a share of these Bitcoins to Dave Kleiman’s heirs.

Perhaps Wright is trying to prove to the court that he is Satoshi in order to shore up his assertion that he owns the 1.1 million Bitcoins. Indeed, as the court case has proceeded, Wright’s public proclamations of being Satoshi have become more frequent. Now Wright can bring the copyright registration to the court as proof that he is Satoshi. However, this is another possible point where the copyright registration can be nullified if proof is brought forth that Wright is not Satoshi.

It will be important to monitor the Craig Wright vs. Dave Kleiman court case. It is perhaps the most important crypto court case in history since it will likely shed light on the earliest days of Bitcoin, regardless of whether or not Wright is proven to be Satoshi.