Craig Wright awarded default judgment in first Bitcoin white paper lawsuit

Dr. Craig Wright has been awarded default judgment in his intellectual property infringement case against Twitter user Cøbra concerning bitcoin.org’s hosting of the Satoshi Nakamoto White Paper. As a result, the English High Court has granted Dr. Wright’s request that Cøbra is no longer allowed to make the White Paper available for download in the United Kingdom (whether by bitcoin.org or otherwise) and must publish and host, on the bitcoin.org website, a statement acknowledging the judgment for no less than 6 months.

The hearing was conducted remotely by His Honour Judge Hodge QC and evidently drew significant public interest: the Judge remarked that the nearly 50 people in attendance was a record for him. Cøbra (or somebody using his name) was also present for the virtual hearing, though was not entitled to make oral submissions without formally identifying himself. Cøbra declined to do so.

The lawsuit had been filed against Cøbra, the pseudonymous operator of Bitcoin.org, over its hosting of the White Paper, which Dr. Wright says infringes his intellectual property rights as the author. Cøbra’s exact identity is not public, but the court allowed Dr. Wright to serve Cøbra with the lawsuit electronically and ‘out of jurisdiction.’

The judgment was awarded because the defendant, Cøbra, had opted not to defend the claim. Under U.K. civil procedure rules, the court can award judgment in favor of the plaintiff if the defendant fails to respond to the lawsuit within the relevant time. Cøbra had gone back and forth over whether he wanted to meet Dr. Wright in court: he first said on Twitter that he would defend Satoshi’s White Paper even if it meant he had to give up his anonymity to do so, but after missing the deadline for responding to the lawsuit, he confirmed on Twitter that he would not be defending it after all.

Despite Cøbra’s refusal to defend the claim, Cøbra (or somebody purporting to be Cøbra) was in virtual attendance at the hearing. The defendant was not entitled to make submissions without formally identifying himself, so he was largely ignored other than to confirm by MS Teams chat he would not be speaking.

The defendant had also submitted a last-ditch, four-page document to the court last week, supposedly concerning matters which Cøbra thought the court should be aware before hearing the default judgment application. Cøbra had also requested that the default judgment hearing be stayed until after the COPA lawsuit against Dr. Wright is resolved. The court accepted submissions by Dr. Wright’s lawyers that it was not open to Cøbra to have the advantages of filing a defence when he has made the conscious decision not to defend the claim.

The results of the judgment are significant, not least of all because it is the first of his White Paper cases to reach a conclusion. Now, Bitcoin.org may no longer make the White Paper available in the U.K. They must publish a statement which acknowledges the outcome of the lawsuit, including a link to the court order. As the losing party, Cøbra must also pay Dr. Wright’s interim costs in the case, which have been preliminarily set by the Judge at £35,000 but will be the subject of a more detailed assessment.

Simon Cohen, Senior Associate at ONTER LLP and a member of the legal team which advised Dr. Wright on this action, said in a statement: “Dr Wright does not wish to restrict access to his White Paper. However, he does not agree that it should be used by supporters and developers of alternative assets, such as Bitcoin Core, to promote or otherwise misrepresent those assets as being Bitcoin given that they do not support or align with the vision for Bitcoin as he set out in his White Paper.”

The case is a victory in Dr. Wright’s campaign to re-take the White Paper. Dr. Wright has been vocal about welcoming the opportunity to face his opponents in Court, but Cøbra’s refusal to defend the case has once again deprived spectators of the full benefit of open court. Nonetheless, the wins are racking up.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.

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