A British court has granted an appeal to Craig Wright, allowing him to argue in litigation that the Bitcoin file format is eligible for copyright protection. Wright, who has claimed to be the inventor of Bitcoin since 2016, launched a lawsuit against 13 Bitcoin Core developers and several companies, including Blockstream, Coinbase, and Block, alleging infringement of his copyright to the Bitcoin white paper, file format, and the rights to the Bitcoin blockchain database.
This decision overturns a ruling from February that deemed Wright’s arguments insufficient to demonstrate how the Bitcoin file format was first recorded, a concept known as fixation in copyright law. In February, the court rejected his application for leave to serve out, stating that the judge had some understanding of the technology involved in the case. However, with this recent reversal, Wright has reopened the discussion on the case.
On July 20, Wright tweeted a statement without explicitly mentioning the court’s decision: “The legal protection of intellectual property is necessary to ensure the rights of creators and innovators and to encourage the production of new ideas, inventions, and creative works.”
The Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund (BLDF), representing the developers, argues that Wright has not provided sufficient evidence to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of the Bitcoin white paper and database. The BLDF stated that Wright must establish his identity as Nakamoto before the court can make a decision on the primary claims in the lawsuit. The case is expected to go to trial in early 2024.
It is important to note that the Bitcoin code is open-source and distributed under the Massachusetts Institute of Technology license, allowing users to reuse the code for any purpose, including in proprietary software. However, Wright argues that the Bitcoin Core developers form a centralized entity known as the “Bitcoin Partnership,” which allegedly controls the Bitcoin network.
The BLDF spokesperson told Cointelegraph that the developers are attempting to create confusion by presenting Bitcoin development as a centralized process controlled by a few individuals, which is a key argument in their lawsuit.
According to the BLDF, the fact that the UK courts are allowing Wright’s arguments to be heard raises concerns not only for the crypto community but for the entire world. It sets a dangerous precedent where developers can be sued for allegedly violating the file format of open-source software claimed by someone else to have created.
This case showcases the complexities faced by the cryptocurrency community when it comes to intellectual property rights and open-source software. It highlights the need for clear definitions and legal frameworks to govern these unique and decentralized technologies. The outcome of this trial will undoubtedly shape the future of copyright protection and the development of open-source projects.