UK court grants appeal from Craig Wright in Bitcoin rights lawsuit


A British court granted an appeal on July 20 that gave Craig Wright the right to argue in litigation that the Bitcoin file format is well-defined enough to qualify for copyright protection. 

Wright, who since 2016 has claimed to be the inventor of Bitcoin (BTC), launched a lawsuit against 13 Bitcoin Core developers and a group of companies, including Blockstream, Coinbase and Block, alleging violation of his copyright to the Bitcoin white paper, its file format and database rights to the Bitcoin blockchain.

The decision reversed a ruling from February that considered Wright’s arguments insufficient to show how the Bitcoin file format was first recorded, a concept known as fixation in copyright law.

“The Claimants may consider themselves unlucky to have had their application for leave to serve out come before a Judge with at least some understanding of the technology involved here,” reads the decision from February, refusing permission to appeal. With this week’s reversal, Wright reopens the discussion on the case.

In a tweet on July 20, Wright wrote, without mentioning the decision: “The legal protection of intellectual property is necessary to ensure the rights of creators and innovators and to encourage the production of new ideas, inventions, and creative works.”

England and Wales Court of Appeal’s decision on July 20. Source: BAILII

The Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund (BLDF), the developers’ legal representative, argues that Wright hasn’t been able to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of the Bitcoin white paper and database.

“Wright has claimed to be Satoshi since at least 2016 without providing a shred of evidence to back up this claim,” BLDF noted in a statement, adding that Wright must prove to be Satoshi Nakamoto “before the courts can make a decision on the three primary claims named in the lawsuit.” The case is expected to go to trial in early 2024.

The Bitcoin code is open-sourced and freely distributed under the Massachusetts Institute of Technology license, meaning that users have the right to reuse the code for any purpose, including in proprietary software. Wright has argued, however, that the Bitcoin Core developers represent a “Bitcoin Partnership,” allegedly a centralized entity that controls the Bitcoin network.

“They seem to be trying to muddy the waters and make it seem like Bitcoin development is a centralized process controlled by a few people, which is a key argument for their lawsuit,” a spokesperson from BLDF told Cointelegraph.

According to BLDF, the fact that courts in the United Kingdom are allowing his arguments to be heard is extremely concerning — not just for the crypto community but for the whole world. “It sets a dangerous precedent where developers can be sued for violating the file format of open source software that someone else claims to have created,” it said.

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