As you might know Craig W.(rong) is currently trying to «get» ownership over the BTC Whitepaper. I know this venture might seem ridiculous and harmless, but I believe it can be dangerous because of it's populistic nature. Alongside with the possible lack of understanding and/or caring of legal institutions it might have a considerable damaging effect. This is why I try to understand some more:

  1. As I understand it the Software has been published under an MIT public license - Doesn't this affect the copyright situation of the Whitepaper as well?
  2. The Original Whitepaper lists «Bitcoin.org» on it's first page - Doesn't this mean who ever runs this domain, owns the copyright alongside with »Satoshi Nakamoto« (if there is a copyright at all)?
  3. Why does C.W. pursues his claims in England?
  4. Doesn't mean the fact that the Whitepaper was published online and for free under a Pseudonym, that whoever published it, clearly has no intention of any copyright claim?
  5. Do Satoshis E-Mails contain any clue about his/her/their intentions regarding the whitepaper?

I am aware these are a lot of questions and I will research them myself as well, but maybe someone has an answer to one or more of them at hand. Thank you in advance!

  • I follow on ridiculous, but I'm not sure I would call it "harmless".
    – Murch
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 0:04
  • 2
    Not at all harmless - but if the majority of a community thinks about a certain topic that it is totally idiotic, they therefore agree implicitly that it is not harmfull because it is clear to everyone in the group. I think the majority of Crypto-Enthusiats believe someone other than Craig is the writer of the BTC-Whitepaper - Therefore they discard his claim because it is clear to them, that he is not the real creator and they think everyone else must see it the same way. But exactly this assumption is extremly harmfull, because «outsiders» lack this insight of how clearly wrong his claim is.
    – Nikson
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 0:26

2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: IANAL, this is not legal advice, the following are some lines of thought that I've seen on the matter that seem plausible to me:

  1. The original client was published under MIT License. The whitepaper was packaged with the original client. The license statement explicitly covers the "included documentation". It seems plausible that the whitepaper therefore was published under MIT license.
  2. Just mentioning bitcoin.org on the whitepaper does not transfer the copyright. Transferring copyrights is a rather involved procedure, and generally copyrights always remain exclusively with the actual creator. The inclusion of the URL in the document's header could potentially be interpreted as consent to be published there. I would expect 1. and 2. to be subject of the lawsuit.
  3. I don't have any special insights why the copyright claim would be pursued in England. Potentially, the laws are favorable to the endeavor, or it's simply due to the claimant residing there.
  4. If someone were to establish themselves as the copyright holder, they could potentially deny some parties from publishing it or use the copyright to legally pursue some parties. More likely, it would be used as evidence to cast the claimant as the creator of Bitcoin in the eye of the public, or as means to enforce patent claims.
  5. I'm not aware of any special statements by Satoshi Nakamoto regarding the status of the Whitepaper.

Earlier, a cease-and-desist notice was sent to Square (among others) on behalf of Craig Wright for hosting a copy of the Bitcoin whitepaper. The Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) responded in February 2021 on behalf of Square, requesting that the copyright claimant substantiate the basis of the claim. After no response was received, COPA announced filing a lawsuit alleging that CW in fact does not hold the copyright in April. I am optimistic that this lawsuit will clear up the matter.

  • Thank you for this elaborate answer! I hope the connection between the code, the E-mails and the whitepaper will be made and will be valid. I fear that a central institution like a court, will fail to apppreciate the decentralized nature of the Bitcoin Project and will seek to «appoint» a creator. On the other hand COPA seems to be a potent and honest advocat for this case and capable of defending it.
    – Nikson
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 11:01

Regarding Point 5 - I found this passage in an E-Mail from Satoshi Nakamoto: «I had to write all the code before I could convince myself that I could solve every problem, then I wrote the paper. I think I will be able to release the code sooner than I could write a detailed spec.» (https://www.metzdowd.com/pipermail/cryptography/2008-November/014832.html).

According to this he first wrote the code and then kind of explained/summarized it in the whitepaper. So the whitepaper is based upon the code and not the other way around.

I always assumed that the Whitepaper is the starting point of it.

I therefore speculate the following: The Whitepaper is only a summary of the already written code. «Anyone» could have written it and there is no originality in the whitepaper (at least regarding the technicalities of the Bitcoin Project) because the code already contains all the creative aspects. If the court would grant Craig Wright the copyright of the Whitepaper and not simultanously the copyright to the code, Craig Wright ends up infringing the copyright of the Code. Does this seem plausible?

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