Dr. Craig Wright on the street

Cøbra appeal denied in victory for open justice

The U.K. High Court has rejected an appeal from Cøbra, saying that allowing the pseudonymous operator of Bitcoin.org to participate in post-judgment costs proceedings would be an infringement on open justice.

Cøbra had been successfully sued by Dr. Craig Wright for violating the latter’s copyright in the Bitcoin white paper as its author; the only matter left to decide was how much of Dr. Wright’s legal costs must be paid by Cøbra as the losing party. However, Cøbra has refused to identify himself to the U.K. court and as a result has been barred from participating in the legal proceedings. In November, the court ruled that this basic tenet of the justice system extended to the post-judgment proceedings, which Cøbra appealed. Monday’s decision is the outcome of that appeal.

Cøbra had argued that preventing him from participating in the proceedings without revealing his identity would be ‘draconian.’ Dr. Wright’s lawyers argue that it is a ‘foundational’ and ‘obvious’ principle of the justice system that parties to legal proceedings must identify themselves.

Today, the court ruling sided with Dr. Wright, agreeing with the earlier decision that an anonymous defendant cannot make costs submissions without revealing themselves. The Justice quoted the 2016 U.K. Supreme Court decision of R (on the application of C) v Secretary of State for Justice:

“The principle of open justice is one of the most precious in our law. It is there to reassure the public and the parties that our courts are indeed doing justice according to law. In fact, there are two aspects to this principle. The first is that justice should be done in open court, so that the people interested in the case, the wider public and the media can know what is going on. The court should not hear and take into account evidence and arguments that they have not heard or seen. The second is that the names of the people whose cases are being decided, and others involved in the hearing, should be public knowledge.”

Dr. Wright said in a statement:

“I am very pleased by today’s judgment, but not surprised. After all, open justice is a fundamental principle defining the operation of our legal system. It is a core component of the rule of law and generally requires justice to be administered in public. It can be traced back to the earliest constitutional legislation of England, referenced in the Court of Session Act 1693. Cøbra has shown flagrant disregard towards these important principles and now pays the price.”

The decision would seem to definitely put an end to Cøbra’s attempts to participate in the case anonymously, which have almost certainly only been allowed to occur until now out of an abundance of caution. Cøbra had been allowed three shots at this argument and has been refused each time. Now, Dr. Wright may finally be able to begin recovering his legal costs from the Bitcoin.org operator.

A history of Cøbra

The case began back in 2021, when Dr. Craig Wright wrote to a number of entities that were hosting the Bitcoin white paper, warning that they were in violation of his copyright as the author and that they risked future legal action if they did not remove the document.

The letters were opening salvo in Dr. Wright’s fight to reclaim Bitcoin from those who use its name to promote products which have nothing to do with the system described in the white paper. The white paper is of particular importance, because the reverence many Bitcoin fans have for the document is openly exploited by exchanges and others, who publish the white paper alongside ‘Buy BTC’ advertisements and hope that customers don’t know the difference—and the full consequences of this are now being realised.

Bitcoin.org itself is little more than a lobby for people to go in order to be instructed on how to buy BTC. On that basis, it’s easy to see why Cøbra was a target for Dr. Wright’s reclamation project. Cøbra did not comply with the letter, and a lawsuit was filed against Cøbra as the pseudonymous operator of bitcoin.org in February 2021.

You can see this cynical fetishisation of the white paper—and the hollowness of it—in Cøbra’s response to Dr. Wright’s lawsuit. Cøbra took to social media to brag that he was ready to fight, recognizing that he would have to give up his anonymity in order to meet Dr. Wright in court:

This proved to be bluster. As it would turn out, Cøbra had no intention of revealing his identity (now that it’s becoming obvious that the BTC being pushed by Cøbra and his ilk are in fact illegal securities, it’s easy to guess why). As a result, he was not allowed to participate at trial, leading the court to grant summary judgment in Dr. Wright’s favour, effectively recognizing his copyright in the Bitcoin white paper. Cøbra was required to take down the white paper and publish a notice on his website for six months, alerting visitors to the judgment.

Dr. Wright’s victory meant that he is entitled to the payment of his legal costs by Cøbra. However, Cøbra again tried to participate in the case without revealing his identity, filing points of dispute regarding the costs submitted by Dr. Wright. In November, a Judge ruled—again—that Cøbra could not participate without revealing his identity, remarking that while it was a novel situation the law was nonetheless clear:

“I have concluded the reason there are no such cases is because the point is in fact a simply one. If a party is not prepared to name itself, then it cannot take part in the proceedings. Where a party has concerns about the publication of its identity, an application to anonymise its name and address can be made…. That is the extent to which a party can be involved in proceedings and limited their identification.”

Today’s judgment was an appeal of that ruling.

For a person who apparently hates the legal system, Cøbra has done everything in his power to drag this case on as long as possible. If Cøbra really felt he had a principle to stand by, he’d have revealed his identity at the outset and defended the case in full—hence why he attempted to rally support on social media by saying he was willing to reveal his identity in order to ‘defend Satoshi’s whitepaper’. But ultimately, Cøbra never did, because as always the lawbreakers of the crypto industry don’t care about the industry, investors, privacy, security or any of the other things they extol publicly: it’s ultimately about their greed for money, and how much they can get away with before somebody decides to put a stop to it.

Fortunately, that’s precisely what has happened here.

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