A man who claims he is the mysterious inventor of bitcoin has won a major court case in the United States, that could widespread repercussions.
Australian IT researcher, businessman, and computer scientist Craig Wright had claimed in a blog post in May 2016, that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym used by the person (or persons) who developed bitcoin.
Nakamoto carried out the initial research underlying bitcoin and apparently ended his involvement in the digital currency in 2011.
Craig Wright in his blog post in 2016 provided a cryptographic signature that’s among those known to have been used by Nakamoto.
Separately, Wright told the BBC at the time that he created bitcoin. “I was the main part of it, other people helped me,” Wright told the BBC. “Some people will believe, Some people won’t, and to tell you the truth, I don’t really care.”
Gavin Andresen, whom Nakamoto chose to succeed him as chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, supported Wright’s claim.
He said his conclusion was based on a visit to London, where Wright lives, and “a careful cryptographic verification of messages signed with keys that only Satoshi should possess”.
Many in the crypto community were (and continue to be) sceptical of Wright’s claim, in part because he has not moved any of the early bitcoin presumed to have been mined by Satoshi.
Others in 2016 claimed that Wright statement was a “scam”, with security researcher Dan Kaminsky noting at the time time that the signature provided was in fact taken from the Bitcoin blockchain, to which anyone has access.
Parallel reports in December 2015 by Wired and Gizmodo produced circumstantial evidence suggesting that Wright was bitcoin’s inventor, but subsequent reporting cast doubt upon the evidence upon which those reports had been based.
Those reports also alleged that Wright had falsely claimed certain academic credentials, such as a PhD in theology by Charles Sturt University (CSU) that CSU allegedly denied having awarded.
Wright was the chief executive of an Australian firm that used bitcoin and founded a digital currency company and a computer security company in Australia, as well as completing a number of academic degrees, according to reports.
The arrival of bitcoin has an interesting backstory.
In 2008, just as the world was being engulfed in a financial crisis of epic portions, Satoshi Nakamoto published a nine-page white paper detailing a vision for bitcoin – a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” that would function outside the reach of governments.
A few months after that, Nakamoto released software that allowed users to mine for the cryptocurrency.
Nakamoto remained on the scene until 2011, at which point he abruptly left the project after emailing a fellow developer to say that they had “moved on to other things.”
Before vanishing, the enigmatic creator is believed to have mined as many as 1.1 million bitcoin.
Previous investigations have named a number of possible identities for Nakamoto, including a Californian man whose name is in fact Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, and who later claimed never to have heard of the currency before the report that linked him to it.
Some involved with Bitcoin argued Satoshi’s identity no longer matters to Bitcoin, which is based on an open source protocol that can’t be controlled by any single individual or organisation.
But now five years after the 2016 claim, CNBC reported that Craig Wright on Monday won a Miami civil case that pitted him against the family of his late business partner and computer forensics expert, David Kleiman.
This saves him from paying his former business partner tens of billions of dollars in the cryptocurrency, namely half of the 1.1 million bitcoin mined and held by Satoshi, a cache currently worth around $54 billion.
The estate of David Kleiman also claimed rights to some of the intellectual property behind early blockchain technology.
The prosecution had reportedly argued that Kleiman was a co-creator of bitcoin, alongside Wright, entitling him to half of Satoshi’s assumed fortune.
However a federal jury in West Palm Beach sided with Wright and declined to award any of the bitcoin to Kleiman’s estate.
That said, Wright was ordered to pay $100 million in compensatory damages over a breach in intellectual property rights related to W&K Info Defense Research LLC, a joint venture between the two men.
That money will go to W&K directly, rather than to the Kleiman estate.
“We are immensely gratified that our client, W&K Information Defense Research LLC, has won $100,000,000 reflecting that Craig Wright wrongfully took bitcoin-related assets from W&K,” said counsel for W&K.
“This has been a remarkably good outcome, and I feel completely vindicated,” Wright said in a video posted to Twitter following the verdict.
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