If you send out enough cease-and-desist orders, it’s likely you’ll get a lawsuit in return. That appears to be the case with nChain Chief Scientist Craig Wright and his legal crusade to block people within and without the cryptocurrency community from hosting the Bitcoin white paper.
The Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA) is filing a lawsuit against Wright in the U.K. over his copyright claims to the Bitcoin white paper. The Alliance was formed in September 2020 and founded by Square to pool patents and preserve the industry’s open-source spirit.
Wright’s representatives sent Square a cease-and-desist notice dated Jan. 21, 2021, demanding that Square stop hosting the white paper on its site. At the time, COPA sent back a legal response on behalf of Square, which boiled down to this: Prove you’re Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of the white paper first.
It does not appear Wright responded with the requested proof by the Feb. 19 deadline COPA set.
“COPA is about truly empowering the crypto community with innovation and removing blockers to innovation,” said a spokesperson on behalf of the COPA board. “This is not the last thing we’re going to take up on behalf of the community.”
The complaint asks the court to resolve the question as to whether Craig Wright has copyright ownership rights over the Bitcoin white paper.
Pursuing a legal case on behalf of the cryptocurrency community is the first instance of COPA throwing its money and weight behind a cause that has plagued the space for years, and it could have widespread ramifications. If a court rules that Wright does not have ownership rights over the Bitcoin white paper, it would be a serious blow to his legal argument that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wright’s long legal trail
Wright, notorious for having an itchy legal finger, had sent his latest round of cease-and-desist orders to Bitcoin core developers, causing the Bitcoin white paper to be taken down from Bitcoincore.org, a “canonical repository for the Bitcoin software and educational resources like Satoshi’s 10-page thesis,” CoinDesk wrote at the time.
Regardless of whether they’re accurate or not, legal claims take time, energy and, importantly, finances to contest.
COPA is stepping in on behalf of the community to protect those small parties, particularly Bitcoin developers, who are essential to the community but don’t have a ton of resources, according to a spokesperson for the COPA board familiar with the matter.
Beyond that, in late February Wright also filed a lawsuit demanding Bitcoin developers give him access to stolen Mt. Gox funds. As CoinDesk reported at the time “even though Bitcoin Core contributors have no control over the network’s wallets, Wright wants Bitcoin’s developers to hand him the keys.”
Following Wright’s initial filings against Bitcoin core developers, but prior to the paper being removed, a number of companies, including Square Crypto, crypto venture fund Paradigm, policy think-tank Coin Center and Facebook stablecoin subsidiary Novi, among others, decided to host it themselves. The action was meant to be a sign of solidarity.
The letter accompanying COPA’s response laid out a number of simple questions for Wright’s representatives to answer regarding his claims. These included the general basis of the claim, where he was when he wrote the white paper, what dates he wrote it and what copyright laws apply, among a number of others.
Wright has a long legal paper trail of using the law to try and silence his critics and even filed a copyright claim in May 2019 with the U.S. Copyright Office over the original Bitcoin code and the Satoshi white paper.
None of his legal attempts to assert he is Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto have been successful.
The new COPA board
The board of COPA, which helps determine the organization’s actions and will guide the course of the lawsuit, is also being updated.
Ultimately, COPA will have a nine-person board representative of the entire community, with three spots reserved for independent members. Thus far, two board members represent member organizations: Brittany Cuthbert, senior counsel at Coinbase, and most recently Kirupa Pushparaj, deputy general counsel at Square.
Four more board members from COPA organizations will be added in the future.
Three additional independent members will round out the COPA board. These included Steve Lee, Square Crypto lead; Dan Robinson, research partner at Paradigm; and Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center.
CoinDesk can also report Pushparaj will also be appointed the board chairman.