The legend of Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious, anonymous bitcoin creator who disappeared from the internet in 2011, has sparked wild speculation over the last decade—including that he could suddenly destroy bitcoin entirely.
BitcoinBTC, created by the author of the bitcoin white paper Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, has grown to a near-trillion dollar asset and spawned a thousand rival cryptocurrencies (with Shark Tank billionaire Mark Cuban recently revealing the two he’s now betting on).
Now, after a surprise bitcoin transaction triggered reports the bitcoin creator had “woken up,” a computer scientist who’s claimed for years without proof to be Satoshi Nakamoto is about to have his claim tested in court.
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Craig Wright, after orchestrating an elaborate but unconvincing demonstration in 2016 that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, has spent years dragging naysayers through the courts in a largely unsuccessful attempt to legally be recognized as bitcoin’s creator.
Bankrolled by former gambling billionaire Calvin Ayre, Wright has sued bitcoin developers, podcasters and anonymous social media users who said they didn’t believe he is Satoshi Nakamoto. Last year, a “shocking” leak revealed cracks were beginning to show in Ayre’s and Wright’s relationship.
Alongside his legal campaign, Wright has focused on a fork of bitcoin called bitcoin SV, which stands for Satoshi’s vision, since the 2017 so-called blocksize war that saw a schism in the bitcoin community between those who wanted bitcoin to be digital gold and those who wanted it to compete with the likes of Visa as a tool for payments.
In 2021, an organisation called the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (Copa), which counts Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s payments company Block, bitcoin and crypto exchange Coinbase and Facebook’s Meta among its members, filed a lawsuit against Wright in the U.K., asking the court to rule that Wright does not own the bitcoin white paper.
The trial, due to begin on February 5 in London and last around a month, will “conclusively show that Dr Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto and will not be able to continue to threaten developers,” A Copa spokesperson told the Guardian, adding Copa is seeking a “negative declaration” that Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wright offered to settle the case last month, a move seen by some observers he’s not confident he’ll be victorious. The offer was rejected by Copa, which posted to X: “Hard pass on that ‘settlement,'” as it came with loopholes “that would allow him to sue people all over again.”
Copa has also said many of the documents produced by Wright as evidence to support his claims are forgeries.
“If Wright were truly Satoshi, it would be easy for him to prove it beyond any doubt. But he cannot,” Coinbase chief legal officer Paul Grewal on behalf of Copa wrote in a Coindesk op-ed. “Wright’s trove of forged documents is at the heart of COPA’s litigation that begins next week. In fact, two experts hired by Wright himself have already acknowledged that many of Wright’s documents are forged.”
Last year, Wright told Forbes his legal strategy going into the trial will hinge on the movement of the bitcoin codebase to Github and the alleged circumvention of his administrator control.
“Think of it as a modern-day tech battle, akin to that between Blu-ray and HD DVD or, for even older readers, Betamax versus VHS,” a spokesperson for Wright told the Guardian, adding the trial is “really a war.”
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