Bitcoin,  People

Craig Wright: I can shut down Bitcoin

The self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto said he would assert legal control of Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Cash in 2020; promises to pay British taxes on ‘his’ assets

Craig Wright just claimed that Bitcoin is his property and he’ll take back control of it in 2020.

The founder of Bitcoin SV (BSV) and self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto claimed to own “full rights to the Bitcoin registry” in a blog post on Feb. 13. Very few people outside of Bitcoin SV supporters believe he created the first cryptocurrency.

Calling himself “the sole creator of Bitcoin,” Wright said “[t]his year, I am taking charge and control of my system.”

He even promised to pay taxes on “his” assets, noting that he is moving his “trust and related companies” to Britain from the offshore tax havens in which they currently reside.

“We have actively selected the UK, knowing that we will be paying tax in the country I have decided to live in, and are in the process of reporting assets we own in the structure to the British government,” Wright added. 

Can Wright shut down bitcoin?

Wright also put the current developers of Bitcoin Core (BTC) and Roger Ver’s Bitcoin Cash (BCH) “on notice.” And while he didn’t say exactly for what, he did claim he right to either collect a licensing fee or even shut down the two leading Bitcoin chains.

“If you negotiate with me, arrangements can be made allowing the continuance of selected copies of my network, with a set of restrictions,” said Wright in his blog post. “In other words, I am willing to license the Bitcoin database.”

How Wright would go about disallowing the continuance of the distributed networks on which BTC and BCH live is very far from clear. They are, after all, designed to make that virtually impossible.

Instead of working with him, he complained, the leaders of those protocols have “sought to attack my character and impugned me.”

Approximately 62% of the value of all cryptocurrency resides in Bitcoin Core, which is valued at $187 billion at the time of publication, according to MessariBitcoin Cash’s market cap adds another $9 billion. 

Wright has frequently claimed that his Bitcoin Satoshi Version fork—worth about $6.6 billion—is the only “real” one still faithful to Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision.

Wright is embroiled in a lawsuit brought by the brother of his late partner, Dave Kleiman. Ira Kleiman is seeking half of the 1.1 million bitcoins mined by the pseudonymous Nakamoto at the beginning of the blockchain project, as well as half of the Bitcoin intellectual property. 

The latter part is what Wright just claimed to own. He also noted that because the Bitcoin software was released on an open source MIT License, other cryptocurrency blockchains like Ethereum and Litecoin are legal. Only forks still using the original Bitcoin genesis block are affected, Wright said.

Torts and taxes

As a matter of law, how would Craig Wright shut down Bitcoin? The legal reasoning behind these claims are spelled out in his 6,000-word post, but it boils down to Wright’s claim that Bitcoin is a database, and databases are protected by British and EU law. He also said that all 21 million bitcoins have, technically, been “issued.” Mining bitcoins does not create them, he argued. It merely distributes them as a reward for protecting the system from double spending.

“It has been a while since Bitcoin was copied and BTC first attempted to pass off as the original system, in a breach of copyright associated with the database created by agents funded under my unilateral contract from 2009 until the SegWit fork,” Wright said. “I apologize for the tardiness, yet if people had not been criminally breaching certain Acts, it would all not be necessary now.”

He concluded: “2020 is looking to be a fine year.”

Unless Ira Kleiman wins half the IP rights to Bitcoin, in which case Wright may well need his agreement to do anything.

Again, this all assumes the Wright really did create Bitcoin, which is almost universally disbelieved. 

Of course, if he declares it as an asset under British law, we’re pretty certain the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be happy to believe him and present a tax bill.

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.