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Craig Wright airs plans to conquer Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash with lawsuits

Posted: 17 February 2020 3:43 pm
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In a new blog post, Bitcoin SV founder Craig Wright explains how he'll show them, he'll show them all.

In a new blog post, Craig Wright, the creator of Bitcoin SV, said that under one interpretation of copyright law, he is the sole owner of the Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash networks.

If this means he owns all the BTC and BCH in existence, that would make him one of the larger Bitcoin whales.

"It takes time to implement legal redress. It has been a while since Bitcoin was copied and BTC first attempted to pass off as the original system," Wright said. "I apologise for the tardiness, yet if people had not been criminally breaching certain Acts, it would all not be necessary now. 2020 is looking to be a fine year."

Opinion: Making the case

The main thrust of Wright's argument is "because as the creator of Bitcoin I said so".

In more detail, there are two main parts to it. One is that he created the Bitcoin network, which gives him personal ownership of the network itself under UK database laws. This means ownership of the wallet addresses, the users, the data on the network and so on, in contrast to just owning the rights to the copy of Bitcoin software itself.

The other part of the argument is that, unlike other forks, Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash both tried to pass themselves off as the real Bitcoin.

Because I said so

Bitcoin was originally released under the MIT License which, in brief, gives anyone permission to copy, reuse, change, publish, distribute and sell and do basically anything with the software, as long as the subsequent version is distributed under the same conditions. But Wright also argues that he is the legal creator and owner of the Bitcoin database under UK databases regulations, so while the software itself is open source, the actual Bitcoin ledger belongs to Craig Wright.

As the owner, Wright is actually the one who issued all 21 million Bitcoin coins in existence, he says. This idea of new coins being created with every block is wrong. All BTC in existence were created at the time of the system's inception, he argues.

"Bitcoin has been falsely taken to be a system that issues new coins (Bitcoin) approximately every 10 minutes... which is incorrect," Wright says. "The system within Bitcoin was launched with the full issue of all tokens."

To support this claim, Wright says it's true because he's the creator of Bitcoin and he said so.

"People need to move away from the concept of 'Bitcoin is decentralised' as a political goal," he says. "The registry is distributed, but the property rights remain mine... the code is law mentality is a lie... and was never a part of Bitcoin."

This ownership extends across the BTC and BCH networks, he argues, because as the person with database rights he gets to decide what constitutes a database breach. In this case, he's decided that "protocol alterations, such as the introduction of Segregated Witness (SegWit) and the additions to operating codes (opcodes) in BTC and BCH, would hence present clear breaches of the database rights associated with Bitcoin".

The reason these qualify as breaches is because, as the inventor of Bitcoin, Wright has decreed that the code is set in stone. It doesn't extend to other forks like Litecoin, because they don't call themselves Bitcoin, he said.

"As the sole creator of Bitcoin, I own full rights to the Bitcoin registry. People can fork my software and make alternative versions. But, they have no rights to change the protocol using the underlying database."

Definitely not a supervillain

Some portions of Wright's post can be summarised as "I'll show them, I'll show them all".

These include:

"This year, I am taking charge and control of my system. Those involved with the copied systems that are passing themselves off as Bitcoin, namely BTC or CoreCoin and BCH or BCash, are hereby put on notice. Please trust me when I say that I’m far nicer before the lawyers get involved."

"I am willing to license the Bitcoin database. I will do so on my terms. While the terms are rather generous right now, I would prefer others as I have been talked into doing something far more generous than I would desire."

"I would prefer to take things through court, because I will win as those who are currently challenging me do not know what is about to happen. It is time you learn who created Bitcoin, and it is me."

"When an illegal copy of the Bitcoin database has not been validly licensed through my companies, the same rules no longer apply. The issue of outstanding tokens may be a promissory condition between developers and others, but it is not something that binds me. And I’m the only one who matters in the scenario. You see, you are trespassing on my property and against property laws."

Questions raised

Wright's blog post raises some interesting hypothetical questions.

For instance, the question of whether this argument means Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin ABC have just as much right to sue Wright as Wright has to sue them. All of them are claiming to be the real Bitcoin, and there's no hard evidence to say who actually invented Bitcoin and who should "own" the network.

Another is the question of what rights, if any, network participants such as miners have in the blockchain.

Wright argues that miners and other participants don't have any rights in the network. They are doing what they're paid to do and nothing more, Wright argues.

"Nodes and miners are... subcontracting in accordance with the initially constructed set of rules that I created. That is, they are following a set of rules and acting as my agents."

In practice, of course, it doesn't work that way. A miner majority is needed to push through any changes to the network. So while you can try to argue that miners have no decision-making rights in a system, in practice miners do have the final say in the operation of the network.

You could even say that, given the way Bitcoin is designed, the miner "service agreements" implicitly tell them to start governing the network and deciding which updates to push through. The simple act of Bitcoin mining means you're casting a vote on the future of the network, and miners have no choice but to pick a side every time these arguments come up. There is no neutral position, because even inaction is a decision of sorts.

And even if you accept the argument that Wright really is the legal owner of the Bitcoin network, and that the miners have always been "agents funded under [his] unilateral contract", the very fact that Wright is unable to exert direct control over his own network is enough to say that Bitcoin actually is decentralised to an extent, which undermines Wright's claims that he owns the network.

It's also interesting to note that a lot of the design choices behind Bitcoin make very little sense if you accept Wright's version of events.

Why give miners all that agency if they're not meant to have any? Why explicitly tie hashrate to governance? Why did he use this particular distributed network structure if it was always meant to be centralised? Why did he go to all the trouble of inventing that "blockchain" thing if he explicitly intended to retain control?

People spent decades before Bitcoin trying to create digital currencies, and byzantine fault tolerant public networks, but Wright's version of events holds that the first time someone actually managed to pull it off, they did it completely by accident.

Next time you feel like you mucked something up, just remember that someone supposedly achieved a major breakthrough in decentralised networks when they were actually trying to achieve the exact opposite.

In many cases, accepting Wright's arguments also means accepting that he's apparently raging against his own poor design choices.



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Disclosure: The author holds BNB, BTC at the time of writing.

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