Craig Wright (photo by Brendan Sullivan for Modern Consensus).
Bitcoin

US Copyright Office says Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto

The Bitcoin SV founder’s claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto was boosted by a copyright registration grant, but is still far from proven

Craig Wright’s much-derided claim to be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto got a big boost from the U.S. Copyright Office today. On May 21, the wealthy nChain founder was granted copyright registration for the original whitepaper—”Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”—as well as the original Bitcoin source code.

Wright is a backer of the Bitcoin Satoshi Version (BSV) coin, which seeks to return a version of Bitcoin to the original vision in the Nakamoto white paper. The price of BSV skyrocketed after the copyright news broke, jumping from $62 at 8:00 am ET to nearly $140 an hour later, before falling to $97 at 2:45 pm ET, according to CoinMarketCap. Trade volume has more than tripled.

“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,” said Wright’s BSV partner Calvin Ayre, in a press release. “This is the first government agency recognition of Craig Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin.”

That said, the copyright registration doesn’t legally prove Wright is the pseudonymous Nakamoto. It does give him a public record of ownership, the ability to file copyright infringement suits, and the right to damages and attorneys’ fees. But Wright would still have the burden of proof in court that he is, in fact, the author of the Bitcoin whitepaper and source code.

The registration also gives him a leg up in recent legal threats against crypto luminaries such as Ethereum (ETH) creator Vitalik Buterin, as well as a libel lawsuits against Bitcoin Cash (BCH) backer Roger Ver and  “What Bitcoin Did” podcast host Peter McCormack.

The McCormack lawsuit led Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao to delist BSV from the leading cryptocurrency exchange on April 15. Kraken Exchange and several other smaller exchanges followed suit.

McCormack, for his part, responded to Wright’s copyright announcement by Tweeting that he has filed a registration with the U.K. Intellectual Property Office for “Craig Wright is a Fraud.” He added tongue-in-cheek legal threats, saying, “Any misuse of ‘Craig Wright is a Fraud’ and I will sue you for fraudulently claiming ‘Craig Wright is a Fraud.’”

Wright is also being sued by the estate of Dave Kleiman for 1.1 million bitcoins Wright allegedly stole from Kleiman. That $8.8 billion worth of Bitcoin comes from the Tulip Trust, which holds coins believed to be mined by Nakamoto shortly after the Bitcoin genesis block went live. Wright’s doubters have challenged him to make a transaction from the trust to prove he is Nakamoto. Submissions in the Kleiman suit suggest Wright cannot do that because he does not regain control of the trust until 2020.

“Registering a copyright is just filing a form,” Coin Center Executive Director Jerry Brito said on Twitter. “The Copyright Office does not investigate the validity of the claim; they just register it. Unfortunately there is no official way to challenge a registration. If there are competing claims, the Office will just register all of them.”

Venture capital attorney Chris Harvey replied to Brito that, “False copyright registration is ‘copyfraud,’” adding that “[u]nfortunately, no private right of action exists under relevant U.S. copyright law.”

The only punishment is a fine of up to $2,500, said Harvey. “No company has ever been prosecuted for violating this,” he noted.

Brito suggested, “Someone else could today also register themselves as the author of the white paper, thus inviting a suit from Wright and letting a court decide on the validity of the claim. I volunteer @petermccormack.”

Ayre’s release said that, “when reviewing Wright’s copyright applications, the U.S. copyright examiner was aware that the Bitcoin white paper and code were each a ‘famous work’ and there have been questions about who is associated with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.”

It added that the copyright registration was granted by the examiner “[a]fter receiving confirmation from Wright that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.” Ayre’s release did not specify if that confirmation was some sort of proof or just Wright’s statement.

Wright plans to assign the copyright registrations to the Bitcoin Association “to hold for the benefit of the Bitcoin ecosystem,” Ayre’s release noted. The Bitcoin Association—recently renamed from Bitcoin SV Group—is the owner of the BSV client software, and supports the cryptocurrency’s ecosystem.

“Bitcoin was created be a massively scaled blockchain to power the world’s electronic cash for billions of people to use, and be the global data ledger for the biggest enterprise applications,” said Jimmy Nguyen, the Bitcoin Association’s president, in the statement Ayre released. “We look forward to working with Craig and others to ensure his original vision is recognized as Bitcoin and is realized through BSV.”

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 owns no cryptocurrencies.