The London Court of Appeal has ruled that Craig Wright’s case against Bitcoin developers can proceed to trial. The case involves Wright’s allegation that his company, Tulip Trading, lost 111,000 bitcoin (worth $2.4 billion today) to hackers who stole its private keys.
Wright is arguing that Bitcoin developers have an obligation to help asset owners recover those funds. Previously, a lower court had dismissed the case, however, the Court of Appeal overruled that dismissal, giving Wright a chance to pursue his case in front of a jury.
Judge Colin Birss reasoned that Bitcoin’s developers might have an obligation to “introduce code so that an owner’s bitcoin can be transferred to safety.” A jury will decide whether developers have any such obligation.
Satoshi or Faketoshi?
Craig Wright claims to be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto but most of the Bitcoin community considers Wright to be a fake, nicknaming him Faketoshi.
Wright produced forged documents in US court proceedings. Bruce Reinhart, a US magistrate judge, once said, “I have previously found that Dr. Wright gave perjured testimony in my presence.” Reinhart also wrote, “I give no weight to sworn statements of Dr. Wright that advance his interests but that have not been challenged by cross-examination.”
His current lawsuit in London names 15 developers as defendants. If Wright wins the case, the developers could become liable for lost or stolen funds.
Some prominent members of the digital asset community, such as Cøbra, the former maintainer of the Bitcoin.org website, believe that there are myriad weaknesses in Wright’s argument.
Retroactive changes to Bitcoin are practically impossible
Even if Craig Wright were to win his trial, any change to Bitcoin’s code would have to be accepted by a globally distributed, adversarial, and mostly anonymous network of computer owners. Worse, most of Bitcoin’s operators don’t fall within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.
Indeed, hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded the Bitcoin Core client. There are at least 13,000 fully operating, validating, and archiving Bitcoin nodes online on any given day. Bitcoin is simply the database and protocol that validates in consensus among those node operators.
Retroactively reinstating any coins for Wright would require cooperation from thousands of node owners who are likely to reject any code fork.
Ethereum’s decision to roll back its blockchain to restore the 2016 hack of The DAO was highly controversial and reneged on Ethereum’s Code Is Law promise. It was also unique to the early history of Ethereum when archival nodes and miners generally cooperated and knew one another — unlike the current Bitcoin network.
Any attempt to give Wright access to the supposedly lost Tulip Trading funds could cause a similar rift in the Bitcoin community — assuming that Wright can find any support among the Bitcoin community at all.
Craig Wright’s waning support for his trial
Initially, Wright gained the support of major influencers like Lead Maintainer Gavin Andresen and Bitcoin evangelist Roger Ver. However, Wright’s support faded when he couldn’t publicly prove that he controlled Satoshi Nakamoto’s private keys.
Andresen has now admitted that Wright fooled him. He’d previously gone to a private meeting in which Wright supposedly showed one proof of possession of Nakamoto’s keys. Andresen now acknowledges that that proof was not definitive.
More recently, Andresen updated his May 2016 blog post to acknowledge he made a mistake by trusting Craig Wright’s claims. Nowadays, Andresen says he would rather stay out of discussions on Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity. The subtext to Andresen’s retreat is that Wright and his financial backer, once-billionaire and CoinGeek founder Calvin Ayre, are ruthlessly litigious.
The London Court of Appeal has ruled that Wright will have a chance to make his case. He alleges that Bitcoin developers have a duty to help him restore lost funds that were allegedly stolen from Tulip Trading. Increasingly few Bitcoiners agree.