The UK Court of Appeal has been examining a claim related to the copyright of the Bitcoin File Format. The case is an appeal from an order of Mellor J, dated 7 February 2023, which refused to grant the Claimants permission to serve the claim form on Defendants outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales. The claim form is centered around an alleged infringement of copyright in a work referred to as the Bitcoin File Format.
The First Claimant, Dr. Craig Wright, asserts that he is the creator of the Bitcoin system, the author of the original Bitcoin source code, and the author of a document known as “the White Paper”. He alleges that he made the White Paper public on 31 October 2008 under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. This claim is one of four in the Business and Property Courts involving Dr. Wright, with a common issue being whether it was Dr. Wright who adopted the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto when announcing the creation of the Bitcoin system. This issue is set to be determined at a trial in January 2024.
Dr. Wright claims that he owns the copyrights in two original literary works: the Bitcoin File Format and the White Paper. He also alleges to be the owner of database rights in three databases related to the Bitcoin blockchain. The Second and Third Claimants are companies controlled by Dr. Wright, which have joined the case in the event they own some or all of the rights claimed.
Dr. Wright has raised objections to two “airdrops”, which he claims made significant changes to the Bitcoin system without his consent. The first airdrop occurred on 1 August 2017, resulting in what Dr. Wright refers to as the BTC Network. The second airdrop occurred on 15 November 2018, creating another new peer-to-peer network, the BCH Network. Dr. Wright alleges that the operation of the BTC blockchain and the BCH blockchain results in the extraction and/or re-utilisation of all or substantial parts of the databases in which he claims to own database rights.
The outcome of this case could have significant implications for the copyright status of the Bitcoin File Format and other similar digital assets. Legal and cryptocurrency experts are closely monitoring the case. The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, remains a mystery. Dr. Wright’s claims have stirred controversy in the crypto world, and the case’s resolution may provide some clarity on these contentious issues.
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