Curious Copyright Case With Bitcoin's Whitepaper

Bitcoin Jan 23, 2021

Craig Wright, the often controversial (understatement) figurehead of the Bitcoin SV project has been the source of tremendous angst in the cryptosphere since affirmatively declaring his identity as 'Satoshi Nakamoto' to the crypto space several years ago.

While, to date, this has never been conclusively proven and subsequent evidence arising from the Wright v. Kleiman Estate trial appears to suggest otherwise, that still has not stopped Wright from obtaining exclusive copyright over the text of the Bitcoin whitepaper.

This registration occurred during the first half of 2019 (circa May / June).

Unbeknownst to most, Craig Wright had followed through the necessary steps with the USPTO to declare his ownership of the Bitcoin whitepaper. Despite the fact that the whitepaper had been in circulation for well over 10 years at that point in time, it appears that no other individual had come forward to actually claim copyright over the paper.

Likely, this was due to the fact that no one knew that it was possible to even claim ownership over the paper since it was assumed that doing so would entail proving to the USPTO that they were the original author of the paper - a feat that becomes exponentially more difficult when the author originally released the paper to the world under a pseudonymous, made-up identity (i.e., 'Satoshi Nakamoto').

Wright's Registration Originally Created Quite a Stir

Wright's acquisition of the copyright rights to the original Bitcoin whitepaper did not go without notice - and apparently that notice did not go over well with many in the community as the USPTO soon found itself inundated with questions, demands and repeated requests to authenticate the claim that Craig Wright had legitimately received the requisite copyright rights to the original Bitcoin whitepaper.

This prompted the USPTO to acknowledge the acquisition on their site in an official capacity in a short press release, which can be viewed here:

Latest Press Updates | U.S. Copyright Office

On May 22nd, 2019, in a post titled, 'Questions About Certain Bitcoin Registrations', the USPTO cleared up a number of misconceptions regarding the application process for Bitcoin's whitepaper (and any other potentially related digital assets / artefacts in existence elsewhere online).

Curiously, the press release begins with the statement:

"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."

Specific to the Bitcoin whitepaper, the USPTO states:

"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."

Which makes sense, logically, as there is no way to prove or disprove whether someone was a pseudonymous entity since no one can prove otherwise (i.e., its impossible to provide evidence of a 'negative').

In terms of the actual registration of the Bitcoin whitepaper, it appears that the process was as simple as the following:

"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."

Immediate Dismissal of the Registration by the Blockchain Community

For some reason, most media outlets decided to dismiss the registration back in 2019 (as if there were no potential consequences for them or their affiliates that could stem from it).

It is no secret that Craig Wright and those aligned with the Bitcoin Core community within blockchain have found themselves at serious odds over Wright's claims that he was the one behind the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin, 'Satoshi Nakamoto'.

In the years since Wright's inception, this spat has evolved from a war of word to definitive action - with Binance, Kraken and several other exchanges electing to 'delist' Bitcoin SV from their platforms specifically in response to Wright's insistence that he is the true Satoshi Nakamoto

BitcoinSV delisted by Binance amid Craig Wright controversy
Binance has announced it will delist controversial cryptocurrency Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BitcoinSV). The confirmation came via a blog post, in which it detailed its processes for ensuring projects meet its “high level of standards”. “Based on our most recent reviews, we have decided to delist and c…

So, the acrimony espoused by the portion of the blockchain sphere that do not recognize Craig Wright to be Satoshi Nakamoto by any means is to be expected. However, it seems that this faction of the blockchain space may have worked against their own interests by minimizing the significance of Craig Wright obtaining the necessary copyright over the original Bitcoin whitepaper.

CoinDesk's Dismissal of Craig Wright Did Not Age Well

Known as a bastion of the Bitcoin Core community (in the same way that 'CoinGeek' is known to be a bastion of the Bitcoin SV community), the copyright announcement by proponents of Bitcoin SV and Craig Wright were immediately waived off as overexaggerated lies, with the article going as far as to suggest that designations by the USPTO held no meaningful significance.

The article erroneously claimed that recognition of Craig Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto by an appendage of the U.S. government was somehow different than the U.S. gov't directly acknowledging Craig Wright as Satoshi.

Again, worth noting that the issue at hand was never whether the gov't "thinks" that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, but rather the legal ramifications for opponents of Craig Wright that have had the Bitcoin whitepaper hosted on their sites for some period of time).

To be specific, the CoinDesk article being referred to in the above paragraph is this one:

US Copyright Office Says It Does Not ‘Recognize’ Craig Wright as Satoshi - CoinDesk
No, the U.S. government didn’t officially recognize Craig Wright as Satoshi.

And boy its a doozy.

Dissecting the CoinDesk Dismissal

The article, titled, "US Copyright Office Says it Does Not 'Recognize' Craig Wright as Satoshi" declares what is now effectively a moot point in its declaration that Craig Wright is not recognized as 'Satoshi'.

Whether or not the USPTO considers Craig Wright to be "Satoshi", the event of significance that occurred was the agency's decision to grant him the Bitcoin whitepaper copyright.

And while we're on the topic of recognition, it is worth mentoining that, based on the language issued by the USPTO, it is clear that they do consider him to be Satoshi Nakamoto.

To reiterate the quoted excerpt from the USPTO press release, it is only stated that the office will not make any efforts to validate claims that are made to them when it comes to asserting ownership over something published by a psuedonymous author (as is the case with the Bitcoin whitepaper).

However, as the press release states, the office,

"Asked the applicant to confirm that Craig Steven Wright was the author and claimant of the works being registered"

And since the answer given was in the affirmative (yes), the USPTO issued the copyright to Craig Wright off the strength of his word. So, in reality - the USPTO does consider Craig Wright to be Satoshi Nakamoto, which makes the CoinDesk headline wholly inaccurate.

Why its Important to Note CoinDesk Working Against its Own Interests

Some of those that are in the anti-Craig Wright camp reading this may not like what was said above regarding Craig Wright, the USPTO's implicit assumption that he is Satoshi Nakamoto and the ownership of the Bitcoin whitepaper, but when it comes to legal matters like the one in question here - it does nobody any favors to declare a preferred alternate reality to be the truth simply because one is in disagreement with the true nature of where things stand.

Nonetheless, the CoinDesk article goes on to make irrelevant, peripheral claims like the following:

"As multiple sources have already noted, all it takes to register a copyright is $55 and a stable internet connection. In short, any claim that the U.S. government has registered Wright as the author of bitcoin are spurious at best."

Again, regardless of how simple it is for one to obtain the official copyright acknowledgment from the USPTO, the fact is that Craig Wright did obtain the copyright from the USPTO, which makes him the legal owner of the Bitcoin whitepaper. Thus, going through the mental gymnastics that CoinDesk did in their write-up on the issue back in 2019 only served to lay the foundation for how the Bitcoin developers ended up getting blindsided by a lawsuit from Craig Wright in 2021.

To many, these copyright claims do seem a little out of the blue, especially when considering the fact that Craig Wright could have made these claims over two years ago when he had originally received the copyright from the USPTO.

Additionally, it has been quite some time since the blockchain space has heard from Craig Wright in this public of a manner (practically since 2019). This is due in a large part to Craig Wright's self-imposed exile from Twitter in March 2019, a platform where his thoughts on certain matters pertaining to the blockchain space and the individuals within it were most visible (to put it politely).

Nonetheless, CoinGeek announced on January 21st, 2021 that Craig Wright would begin demanding the removal of the Bitcoin whitepaper from a few sources where it is currently hosted.

Below is an excerpt from the press release on CoinGeek:

As noted above, the websites that are said to have received legal requests from Craig Wright are:

  • bitcoincore.org
  • bitcoin.org
  • bitcoin.com

The obvious observation here is that all of the sites that were named in the article promote and document the Bitcoin Core project (which we mentioned prior is at diametric odds with Craig Wright both philosophically and identity-wise).

The aritcle goes on to state:

"The letters were sent in accordance with the English Civil Procedure Rules, Pre-Action Protocol for intellectual property claims. Letters like these typically serve to put a person on notice that court proceedings may be brought against them imminently as a result of their conduct if they do not stop their infringing acts."

And that

"The letters inform those parties that Dr. Wright does not consent to the publication of his white paper by them. Dr. Wright has demanded they stop making the white paper available on their websites and undertake not to publish again in the future without his permission."

Apparently the goal is for the Bitcoin whitepaper to only be hosted on Craig Wright's blog (and his blog online, perhaps).

Objectively speaking, this move by Craig Wright appears to be counterproductive and more so intended to deal another 'blow' to the Bitcoin Core community in their now longstanding feud.

As mentioned prior, many in the community ridiculed Craig Wright on Twitter in 2019 for insisting that he was and is Satoshi Nakamoto. Additionally, the Bitcoin SV project was delisted from a significant number of exchanges in the blockchain space with Binance being the most notable removal (given their consistent rank as the #1 exchange in blockchain in terms of volume, activity and  website traffic).

At the time, many considered this to be an assassination attempt on the project - but at the  #14 rank with a total valuation of $3 billion, it appears that the project is still very much alive and posed to sustain for the foreseeable future.

Revenge by Craig Wright Continues a Meaningless War

If anything, if Craig Wright's requests do end up in the successful removal of the Bitcoin whitepaper from the aforementioned websites, then it will be a net loss for all those involved - Craig Wright included.

Whether we are to assume that Craig Wright is truly 'Satoshi Nakamoto' or not, his aggressive pursuit of all known Bitcoin Core focused websites that host the whitepaper will effectively deter many others from hosting the whitepaper on their site (if they deem they have something to legally lose in the situation).

And given the fact that Bitcoin is an open source project, that is unfortunate because it makes obtaining the truth that much harder for those that aren't familiar with blockchain.

Why the Whitepaper Being Widely Available is Important

Did you know that the word 'decentralization' isn't used one time in the original Bitcoin whitepaper?

Go ahead and check if you're in disbelief.

Surprising, right?

Especially in a space that touts 'decentralization' as the number one tenet that blockchain technology must adhere to (even though it never was and still isn't).

Thankfully at some point in time in the past, we had the whitepaper to clarify these discrepancies. But now, with the whitepaper potentially becoming exponentially harder to source, it is more likely that the space will evolve an ever increasing bastardization of the original specifications and characteristics of the original blockchain (Bitcoin), which should serve as the ultimate model for how we are defining 'blockchain' (since it is still yet to be defined in the blockchain space to this date).

Bitcoin Core Acquiescing Puts Their Commitment in Question

Recently, CoinDesk published an article announcing that the 'lead developer' of Bitcoin (yeah, there's a lead developer) is "stepping back" from his role due to the lawsuit being pursued by Craig Wright.

That article can be found here:

Bitcoin Core Lead Maintainer Steps Back, Encourages Decentralization - CoinDesk
Bitcoin Core lead maintainer Wladimir van der Laan it taking a more “background role” for the sake of further decentralizing the project.

The article, titled, 'Bitcoin Core Lead Maintainer Steps Back, Encourages Decentralization' declares that the "Bitcoin Core lead maintainer Wladimir van der Laan" recently made the decision to downgrade their involvement with the project "for the sake of decentralizing the project".

As noted in the article, "Bitcoin Core is the key software underpinning the Bitcoin network."

Below is an excerpt from the article providing more details about van der Laan's transitioned role:

Van der Laan's Move is Cowardly

When considering the level of criticism that the Core development team has faced for years  for what many describe as Core's de facto control over the protocol, it appears that "decentralization" only became a priority to the Core team when they felt they were in the line of fire of a lawsuit from Craig Wright.

In perspective, it makes the Core team seem even more self-serving than they did before and brings into question their true dedication to the project to begin with.

Also, it completely destroys any notion of 'openness' in the Core community if we're seeing the disappearance of the original Bitcoin whitepaper from Bitcoin Core sites (a decision made with no community input given beforehand), in response to the threat of lawsuits from Craig Wright.

Core ultimately acquiesced to Craig Wright's demands by "[taking] down their copy of the paper [on bitcoin.org], references to it...and [merging the changes] on GitHub."

The link to the merged changes showing the deletion of all references to the Bitcoin whitepaper can be found here:  

Remove bitcoin.pdf by laanwj · Pull Request #740 · bitcoin-core/bitcoincore.org
The licensing status of this file is unclear. It can be found in enough places by now, and as this site is about Bitcoin Core (a specific implementation), not about Bitcoin in general, the whitepap...

Readers should take note that these changes were made to the master tree of the Bitcoin source code (not the reference client implementation).

Readers should also take note that this decision was made swiftly and without any consultation with the community beforehand (saying a lot about the level of control that Core is able to exert over the project at any given point in time ; thus, Bitcoin is about as decentralized as Bitcoin Core is).

Conclusion

One user stated it best in the comments of the commit referenced above that deleted all references to the Bitcoin whitepaper:

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cryptomedication

Happy to serve and help wherever I'm needed in the blockchain space. #Education #EthicalContent #BringingLibretotheForefront

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