U.K. high court rules Australian computer scientist is not bitcoin founder


Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? A ruling from Britain’s high court Thursday has at least narrowed down who Satoshi is not. 

For eight years, Australian computer scientist Craig Wright has claimed that he was the man behind “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the pseudonym that masked the identity of the creator of bitcoin. His claim was vehemently rejected by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance, or Copa, a nonprofit group of technology and cryptocurrency firms, who brought the case to court.

In his ruling, Justice James Mellor said Wright did not invent bitcoin, was not the man behind Satoshi, or the author of the initial versions of the bitcoin software. Further explanation will emerge when Mellor’s written statement is published at a later date.

“Having considered all the evidence and submissions presented to me in this trial, I’ve reached the conclusion that the evidence is overwhelming,” he said, according to a court transcript.

Dr Craig Wright court case
Britain’s high court Thursday ruled Craig Wright (above) did not invent bitcoin. For eight years, Australian computer scientist has claimed he was the man behind “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the pseudonym that masked the identity of the cryptocurrency’s creator. 

Lucy North/PA Images via Getty Images

During the trial, Copa claimed Wright had created an “elaborate false narrative” and forged documents to suggest he was Satoshi and had “terrorized” those who questioned him.

A spokesperson for Copa said Thursday’s decision is a “win for developers, for the entire open source community, and for the truth.”

“For over eight years, Dr. Wright and his financial backers have lied about his identity as Satoshi Nakamoto and used that lie to bully and intimidate developers in the bitcoin community,” the spokesperson added.

Wright, who attended the start of the five-week trial, denied the allegations.

At stake was not just bragging rights to the creation of bitcoin, the world’s most popular virtual currency, but control of the intellectual property rights.

Wright has used his claim as bitcoin’s inventor to file litigation to drive developers away from further developing the open-source technology, the alliance claimed in their lawsuit. The ruling will clearly impact three pending lawsuits that Wright has filed based on his claim to having the intellectual property rights to bitcoin.

The murky origins of bitcoin date to the height of the financial crisis in 2008. A paper authored by a person or group using the Nakamoto pen name explained how digital currency could be sent around the world anonymously, without banks or national currencies. Nakamoto seemed to vanish three years later.

Speculation on the true identity swirled for years and the names of several candidates emerged when Wright first surfaced to claim the identity in 2016, only to quickly return to the shadows, saying he didn’t “have the courage” to provide more proof.

Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency, was released in 2009 as an open-source software and is the most high-profile digital currency. As with all digital tokens, bitcoin is not tied to any bank or government. Like cash, it allows users to spend and receive money anonymously, or mostly so. It can also be converted to cash when deposited into accounts at prices set in online trading.

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Supporters say it can be more trustworthy than traditional money, which can be vulnerable to the whims of those in power. Skeptics say their volatility has introduced a potential new risk to the global financial system, and fret about their potential to promote illicit activities and introduce uncertainty.

Despite occasional big wobbles, one bitcoin is now worth over $70,000, three times what it was worth just a year ago. Demand for the bitcoin has risen sharply on so-called spot bitcoin exchange traded funds. The ETFs, which allow investors to dabble in crypto in a less riskier way than ever before, has attracted a huge influx of cash this year, experts said. 

Thursday’s verdict is a relief to the crypto exchanges who have been rejecting the idea of Wright as Satoshi.

“Satoshi understood the value of decentralization and built bitcoin so that it could not be controlled by a single person or entity,” said a spokesperson for Kraken, one of the biggest exchanges. “We’re pleased the court recognized the overwhelming evidence that categorically settles that Wright is not Satoshi.”


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