Granath v Wright

Granath v Wright: Parties file closing arguments as Satoshi Trial in Norway begins Sept 12

The parties in Granath v Wright in Norway have filed their closing arguments with the Oslo court, shedding light on how September 12’s trial between Satoshi Nakamoto and one of his most infamous critics will go down.

The filings set out Dr. Craig Wright’s case against the Twitter user, who Dr. Wright claims defamed him in a series of vicious tweets in 2019. Dr. Wright’s lawyers blast Granath for using a pseudonymous Twitter handle to wage a campaign of harassment against Dr. Wright, calling him a scammer and a fraud while encouraging others to do the same. They also point out that Granath made the attacks without the accompaniment of any factual evidence.

“Craig Wright is open to factual debate and statements related to his pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. However, this case concerns harassing messages made anonymously on Twitter to 8,800 people who then followed @Hodlonaut, with a direct call to the followers to continue the personal attacks,” reads the filing.

The lawyers make specific mention of the particularly cruel use of language by Granath, such as calling Dr. Wright ‘mentally ill’. The words were likely to have landed especially hard for Dr. Wright owing to his widely known autism diagnosis, something which has been common to all of his legal battles owing to how it affects the way Dr. Wright behaves and is perceived. Granath used Dr. Wright’s condition as fuel for his campaign of cyber-bullying, further encouraging others to join in.

Dr. Wright’s lawyers also draw attention to Granath’s likely motivation behind the attacks: his support of BTC and its Lightning Network, which are direct competitors to Dr. Wright’s BSV. The war against BSV is well documented and currently the subject of a record-breaking class action suit in the U.K.’s competition tribunal, and serial harassers like Granath have played a key part in that war. Before Granath’s ‘hodlonaut’ account was gaining attention for his attacks on Dr. Wright, it was known for the ‘Lightning Torch’ project, a social media campaign aimed at drawing attention to the Lightning Network, which purports to allow fast, cheap transactions on the BTC network’s second layer. Bitcoin (as currently represented by BSV), on the other hand, was designed to do this natively, making it an existential threat to Granath’s favorite project.

These factors, among others, show that Granath’s tweets were defamatory. However, for Dr. Wright to succeed, they must also be shown to be unlawful. Under Norwegian law, this is determined based on a “balancing exercise,” weighing the consideration of the target of the statements against the consideration of the defamer’s right to freedom of expression. To that end, Dr. Wright’s lawyers raise the same points outlined above to argue that Granath’s statements were unlawful. Additionally, they argue that such statements were made negligently—a requirement under Norwegian law and the key difference between Dr. Wright’s defamation case in Norway and the ones in England. Perhaps of most importance is that Granath made the statements without presenting any evidence to the thousands of Twitter users in his audience, a point made repeatedly throughout the filing.

The closing arguments also give some insight into the witnesses that Dr. Wright will rely on at trial: these include Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Donald Lynam, the uncle that Dr. Wright trusted to edit a pre-release version of the white paper and who ran Bitcoin’s earliest nodes and Stefan Matthews, an old co-worker of Dr. Wright’s who has gone on record to say that Dr. Wright gave him an early draft of the white paper well before its release in 2008.

As for redress, Dr. Wright’s lawyers leave compensation to the discretion of the court, but based on similar cases they suggest NOK 100,000 (about £8.5k).

How we got here

For Granath, £8.5k is a small price to pay for authoring a cacophony of cyber bullying against Dr. Wright which continues to this day. But for Wright, the case has never been about money: in fact, it was Dr. Wright’s initial letter to Granath—in which he asked the Tweeter to retract the statements without any claim for damages on Wright’s part—which caused Granath to begin these Norwegian proceedings in the first place.

Upon receiving the letter, Granath’s response was to scramble to begin separate litigation in Norway, seeking from the court a declaration that his tweets were not unlawful. This was done tactically: under the EU’s Lugano Convention, if the same claim is filed in two jurisdictions which have fundamentally the same cause of action, the later court must decline jurisdiction in favor of the earlier one. This is to avoid the possibility of irreconcilable judgments over the same subject within the EU. Granath was attempting to leverage the convention to avoid meeting Dr. Wright in the English courts—a prescient move, given that the same court just ruled in favor of Dr. Wright in his defamation case against another critic, Peter McCormack.

Granath’s gambit initially worked. He successfully applied for the U.K. High Court to toss Dr. Wright’s lawsuit in England in favour of the one in Oslo. However, in early 2021, the English Court of Appeal reversed the High Court’s decision in a landmark judgment for English law. Lord Justice Moylan said that the High Court had incorrectly focused on the shared purpose of the lawsuits, where the Lugano Convention’s desire to avoid irreconcilable judgments demanded that the focus be on whether the causes of action within them are substantially similar. As the Norwegian claim was brought under that country’s general damages law, which requires the plaintiff to establish negligence in order to succeed, as opposed to the specific defamation claim under English law, the question in both suits were fundamentally different.

As a result, Granath was now contending with lawsuits on two fronts: one in the U.K. (set to go to trial in 2023) and the other in Norway.

Because of this quirk of procedural history, Dr. Wright is technically the defendant. As such, the substantial part of Wright’s claim is articulated in response to Granath’s claim seeking a declaratory judgment that his tweets were not unlawful and that he does not owe Dr. Wright any damages. This is how Granath put his claim when filing in Oslo, asking the court for a judgment:

  1. That Granath is acquitted of any claim for damages raised by Dr. Wright
  2. That Granath’s statements that Dr. Wright is not Satoshi are not unlawful
  3. That Dr. Wright pays Granath legal costs

Based on that, Dr. Wright will go to trial in September asking for four things:

  1. Granath’s core claim—that his statements indicating that Dr Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto were are not unlawful—is dismissed
  2. Dr. Wright is acquitted
  3. Granath to pay damages for non-economic loss to Dr. Wright
  4. Granath must pay Dr. Wright’s legal costs

CoinGeek will be live in Oslo to cover the seven-day trial, beginning September 12.

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