A British court recently granted an appeal to Craig Wright, allowing him to argue in a litigation that the Bitcoin file format is eligible for copyright protection. Wright, who has claimed to be the inventor of Bitcoin since 2016, filed a lawsuit against 13 Bitcoin Core developers and several companies, including Blockstream, Coinbase, and Block, alleging a violation of his copyright to the Bitcoin whitepaper, its file format, and database rights to the Bitcoin blockchain. This decision overturned a previous ruling from February that stated Wright’s arguments did not sufficiently demonstrate how the Bitcoin file format was first recorded, a concept known as fixation in copyright laws.
The February ruling refused permission to appeal, stating, “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.” However, with this recent reversal, Wright has reopened the discussion on the case. In a tweet on July 20, Wright wrote about the necessity of legal protection for intellectual property, without explicitly mentioning the court’s decision.
The Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund (BLDF), representing the developers involved in the case, argues that Wright has failed to prove his claim of being Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of the Bitcoin whitepaper and database. BLDF stated that Wright must provide evidence to support his claim before the courts can make a decision on the primary claims named in the lawsuit. The case is expected to go to trial in early 2024.
The Bitcoin code is openly sourced and distributed under the MIT license, which allows users to reuse the code for various purposes, including proprietary software. However, Wright argues that the Bitcoin Core developers constitute a centralized entity called “Bitcoin Partnership,” claiming they control the Bitcoin network. BLDF suggests this argument is an attempt to portray Bitcoin development as a centralized process controlled by a few individuals, serving as a key point in their lawsuit.
BLDF expressed concern over the UK courts allowing Wright’s arguments to be heard, stating it sets a dangerous precedent not only for the crypto community but for the entire world. They believe it establishes a scenario where developers can be sued for allegedly violating the file format of open-source software that someone else claims to have created.
This ongoing legal battle is significant for the future of Bitcoin and the broader crypto community. The outcome of the trial will determine if the Bitcoin file format can receive copyright protection and potentially impact the development and distribution of open-source software in the future. The case highlights the complexities of intellectual property within the digital age and the importance of clearly defining ownership and rights.