Bitcoin 'inventor' will face forgery claims over his Satoshi Nakamoto proof, rules High Court

COPA load of that


A man who claims to be the secret inventor of Bitcoin has failed in a legal bid to throw out a High Court lawsuit saying he's talking tosh – and will be accused of forging proof he is Satoshi Nakamoto.

Craig Wright (for it is he) did not succeed in his attempt to have parts of the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA)'s case against him struck out, meaning the lawsuit (which basically calls him a liar for saying he is the pseudonymous Bitcoin creator) will go ahead in full.

"Since about 2016 the defendant has publicly claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto. This claim has been brought in order to test those assertions," said His Honour Judge Paul Matthews, handing down his decision in late December.

Nakamoto's identity is unknown; having written Bitcoin's founding whitepaper, he disappeared into obscurity around 2011, though the 1.1 million Bitcoin he personally mined are still visible on the blockchain, the public record of Bitcoin transactions.

COPA is an association started by Jack Dorsey's Square payment services firm (Square is now incomprehensibly known as Block). Among its members are Coinbase and about a dozen other cryptocurrency companies, according to COPA's website. Its mission consists of asking owners of blockchain patents never to enforce their IP. Founded in 2020, it filed suit against Wright in early 2021.

… on several occasions when Wright has sought to prove he is Satoshi by way of documentary evidence, it has been shown that the documents he relies on are not what he claims they are…

The Claimant will establish at the trial of this matter by way of forensic computer evidence that the above documents (being those referenced in paragraphs 28-29, 66 and 66A) were, in fact, forged or otherwise doctored unless [the defendant] admits such.

- COPA particulars of claim against Craig Wright

Part of COPA's case against Wright is something called the Sartre message, a 2016 incident where Wright told journalists he had the private key for Bitcoins "mined in Block 9 of the Bitcoin blockchain." He proved that by showing them a message he said was created with the same key. Judge Matthews summarised it by saying Wright had shown the press the message, "a hash of the message, and a signature of the hash in the form of the text of a speech by Jean-Paul Sartre."

Wright's defence is that COPA has mixed up an April 2016 press interview with a May 2016 post on his blog*, admitting that the May blog post "related to a publicly available signature rather than to a private one."

Unfortunately for Wright, the judge was sceptical of his claim that COPA was confused, writing:

If the provided signature was one which was publicly available in the blockchain, rather than one which corresponded to the private key associated with block nine of the Bitcoin blockchain, then it could not have been provided as a proof that the defendant was Satoshi (which was what was put forward) but could only be a forgery of such a signature. Whether it was put forward as a proof of being Satoshi Nakamoto is a matter for trial. So, forgery is in issue.

The High Court trial will also rule whether a 2008 email Wright allegedly sent business partner Dave Kleiman is a genuine message or a forgery. COPA says the information-defense[.]com domain used in a copy of the email filed as evidence wasn't created until 2009. Wright says the message was migrated from one Exchange server to another, losing its original domain in the process.

Wright previously lost a 2020 High Court bid to sue a YouTuber who called him a liar about his claim to be Satoshi, albeit on the grounds that he ought to have sued the YouTuber in the US rather than Britain – meaning judges declined jurisdiction.

More recently, he won a civil case in Miami against Kleiman's family. The family of Kleiman, who died in 2013, claimed the pair had collaborated on Bitcoin's creation.

His win was technical, however; the court ordered Wright to pay $100m in damages over an IP rights breach, ruling he wrongly took bitcoin-related assets from W&K Information Defense, a company he and Kleiman had set up together. The money is payable to the company rather than Kleiman's family.

Had the family won, Wright would have had to hand over half of the 1.1 million Bitcoins (worth tens of billions of dollars at this hour's exchange rate) to them.

The UK case will proceed to trial in due course. It may be this year or pandemic-related delays in the justice system might push it back to 2023. ®

Bootnote

This is not the original URL; it appears Wright has migrated his blog over the years. The post in question (archived and filed as evidence with the High Court) was originally at http://www.drcraigwright.net/jean-paul-sartre-signing-significance. The Internet Archive's very first snapshot of that URL, dated 5 May 2016, shows something rather different from the text everyone else is arguing over.

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