copyright claim over Bitcoin file format

UK Court of Appeal hears copyright claim over Bitcoin file format

The Court of Appeal heard that it should accept Dr. Craig Wright’s copyright claim over the Bitcoin file format, lawyers argued Wednesday.

Dr. Wright had originally brought claims against the BTC partnership, including its developers and major industry players such as Coinbase (NASDAQ: COIN), on three grounds: infringement of Dr. Wright’s database rights over the Bitcoin database, copyright infringement of the Bitcoin white paper and copyright infringement of the Bitcoin file format.

As some of the defendants reside outside the U.K., Dr. Wright had to show he had a reasonable prospect of success on each count before the court would allow service of the lawsuit. He successfully did so for two of the three grounds, but the High Court found that there was not an arguable case that the Bitcoin file format was protected by copyright by virtue of the fact that the file format was not recorded in sufficiently permanent form to be capable of attracting copyright protection (a concept known as ‘fixation’) under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

Today’s appeal was over that decision.

Before the court of appeal, Dr. Wright’s lawyers argued that the Bitcoin file format had sufficient fixation, at the latest, at the moment that the Bitcoin software was run and blocks in the file format were generated and added to the blockchain.

“Dr. Wright fixed the work when he ran the Bitcoin software that he had written and started creating blocks in that format.”

They said that the High Court’s Mellor J had incorrectly adopted additional requirements for fixation, namely that there should be some “content indicating the structure” in each Bitcoin block.

Dr. Wright’s lawyers argued that this was an incorrect and unsupported interpretation of the requirements for fixation, pointing out that this would mean that whether a new file format was worthy of copyright protection would turn entirely on whether the creator had chosen to leave explanatory comments alongside the file format itself.

Even if Mellor J’s interpretation was correct, lawyers for Dr. Wright argued that it was enough that the Bitcoin file format can be understood from the Bitcoin software, as evidenced by the fact that others have documented the file format and third party software has been released which reads and writes in that format.

Damon Parker, of Harcus Parker who represent Dr. Wright in the case, said:

“Understandable, the Claimants are keen to protect their interests in the use and future use of the Bitcoin Blockchain and White paper to which Dr Wright has devoted a significant period of his career.

“This highly significant claim potentially affects all future use, and marketing, of Bitcoin and as such could prove to be a crucial development in intellectual property law.”

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