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Cases co-pending with COPA v. Wright

[Recommend my two-volume book for more reading]:

BIT & COIN:  Merging Digitality and Physicality

In addition to COPA v. Wright (Case No. IL-2021-000019), several active legal actions in the UK High Court involve Dr. Wright.

The COPA v. Wright case concerns the identity issue (whether Dr. Wright is Satoshi). The other cases are derivative matters such as property rights Dr. Wright claims against various parties, including BTC Core, Coinbase, Kraken, Block, Spiral, Blockstream, etc. These cases all necessarily depend on the identity issue because Dr. Wright’s property claims can only stand if he is Satoshi.

Since the identity issue is recognized as a common issue in all cases, it is consolidated into COPA v. Wright to be tried first, making that case the most critical one. See more: The key in COPA v. Wright.

Other cases are temporarily stayed, awaiting the outcome of COPA v. Wright.

Wright v. BTC Core

Among the other cases, Wright v. BTC Core is especially important because it is about copyrights and database rights in the Bitcoin database, Bitcoin file format, and Bitcoin system.

On February 7, 2023, Justice Mellor, the judge presiding the Wright v. Bitcoin Core, issued a pretrial order. The order was mostly favorable to Dr. Wright. The judge agreed that Dr. Wright’s claims in database rights and copyright infringement in the White Paper raise serious issues to be tried. But the judge disagreed with Dr. Wright’s claim of copyright in the Bitcoin File Format and ordered the claim be stricken because no serious issue was to be tried regarding the claim. Judge Mellor believed Dr. Wright did not show the requisite ‘fixation’ of the structure when the Genesis block was created. That is, the rejection is not that the Bitcoin file format cannot be copyrighted, but that Dr. Wright did not meet the ‘fixation’ requirement of the copyright law.

Upon an appeal by Dr. Wright, the Court of Appeals on July 20, 2023 reversed Judge Mellor’s order concerning the Bitcoin File Format. The Court of Appeals opined that Dr. Wright has a real prospect of successfully establishing that the fixation requirement is satisfied. Thus, all claims by Dr. Wright will go to trial.

Lord Justice Arnold’s opinion pointed out a number of flaws in the lower court’s reasoning.

“First, the judge’s statement that “no relevant ‘work’ has been identified containing content which defines the structure of the Bitcoin File Format” confuses the work and the fixation. The work Dr Wright relies upon, the Bitcoin File Format, has been clearly identified. The question of how and when that work was fixed is a different one. Dr Wright’s case is that the work was fixed when the first block in the Bitcoin blockchain was written on 3 January 2009.

Secondly, even if the judge meant to say “fixation” rather than “work”, his statement presupposes that it is necessary for fixation for there to be content which defines the structure of the Bitcoin File Format. This is not necessarily correct. As the judge clearly appreciated, the work in which Dr Wright claims copyright is a structure. It is quite correct that the work, that is to say, the structure, must be fixed in order for copyright to subsist in it; but it does not necessarily follow that content defining (or describing or indicating) the structure is required in order to fix it. All that is required is that the structure be completely and unambiguously recorded.”

The other two Appellate Court judges agreed. I applaud such lucid reasoning and precise interpretation of the copyright law.

What does this all mean?

If the COPA case comes out in Dr. Wright’s favor, Dr. Wright would likely also win the other cases on derivative rights, such as copyright and database rights.

Losing these cases can devastate respondents to Dr. Wright’s claims, especially BTC Core and its codefendants (Blockstream, Coinbase, and COPA).

The reason: the copyrights and database rights that Dr. Wright claims to own would provide a mechanism by which he can prevent the further unconsented operation of the BTC blockchain, which is the champion project in the crypto world.

That’s why there is so much at stake in COPA v. Wright, which will decide the identity issue first to lay a foundation for these co-pending cases on derivative rights.

[Recommend my two-volume book for more reading]:

BIT & COIN:  Merging Digitality and Physicality