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  • L Higgins and S Pettigrove

Court examines the Satoshi emails, as COPA seek to prove Wright wrong

The trial investigating whether Craig Wright is truly Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, has continued into its third week with a series of surprising revelations.

Wright faces a claim by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), an association of leading crypto firms and developers, that is asking a UK court for a declaration that Wright is not the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.

In a session last week, Wright admitted that a version of the Bitcoin whitepaper discovered by Wright alongside 160,000+ other documents, had in fact been recently edited in advance of trial. Alexander Gunning, representing COPA, pointed out Wright's edits, which were found in his "LaTeX files." Gunning asked Wright "If you were forging the whitepaper, that is how you would do it, isn't it?", to which Wright replied "Yes.". Some believe that the modifications are consistent with forging or backdating the document.

Crypto Twitter was quick to post a time-lapse of the edits:

Gunning's probing questions revealed that Wright's alterations were aimed at mirroring the Bitcoin whitepaper's layout. This revelation, along with the fact that the file was recently uploaded in November 2023, raises new doubts about Wright's claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto.

The tension peaked during Wright's testimony when Gunning asked him directly if his claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto was fraudulent, which Wright vehemently denied.

The trial has featured a who's who of early cryptography pioneers. Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn, the founder of Zcash, discussed his interactions with Nakamoto, emphasising their mysterious nature. Adam Back, CEO of Blockstream, discovered a series of 2008 and 2009 emails from Satoshi Nakamoto's email address which quickly went viral:

The email exchanges suggest that Back is himself not Satoshi Nakamoto, which was a long-running theory of many crypto conspiracy theorists (which Back has long denied).

In an interesting twist, Nakomoto's emails foreshadowed the possibility of problems arising from Bitcoin's energy consumption. Nakamoto advocated for Proof of Work (PoW) as crucial for network coordination, sparking debates about Bitcoin's environmental impact.

Emails from Nakamoto also hinted at the potential regulatory concerns over cryptocurrency, anticipating the long running regulatory battle over whether cryptocurrencies are securities:

There are a lot of things you can say on the sourceforge site that I can't say on my own site
...I'm uncomfortable with explicitly saying, 'consider it an investment'...That's a dangerous thing to say...
It's OK if [people who deal with bitcoin] come to that conclusion on their own, but we can't pitch it as that.

Wright is expected to take the stand again later this week to defend allegations that emails between him and his former legal representatives, Ontier, were allegedly "not genuine". Wright had referenced these emails in his evidence last week which compelled his now current lawyers to submit them into evidence. With Ontier alleging that those emails were doctored, COPA will likely put new allegations of forgery (in addition to the allegations relating to the bitcoin whitepaper) to Wright on the stand.

The current trial is relevant to a number of ongoing UK actions over claims relating to copyright in the Bitcoin whitepaper and code base. While the trial may finally prove Wright wrong in his claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto, it appears the real identity of Bitcoin's pseudonymous creator will remain a mystery for some time to come.

Written by Luke Higgins and Steven Pettigrove


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