In light of the recent events regarding copyright enforcement of the Bitcoin white paper, Bitcoin Association Founding President Jimmy Nguyen wrote a public blog on his personal LinkedIn page reflecting on the situation and sharing some of his own thoughts. It is republished with permission in full below.
Over the past week, copyright law has triggered a frenzy of media attention and social media talk in the digital currency world. That’s because Dr. Craig Wright sent (through his lawyers) legal demand letters to a number of website operators to enforce his copyright to the famed Bitcoin white paper. It’s important to note that neither Bitcoin Association nor the wider Bitcoin SV ecosystem are parties to this legal enforcement; this is a personal effort by Craig to reclaim what he sees as a key part of his legacy. So while I would not normally be one to offer a public opinion on someone’s personal legal proceedings, given the industry interest and my prior experience as an intellectual property lawyer, I wanted to share some thoughts.
Craig attests that he is the author of the Bitcoin white paper (originally posted online in 2008 under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto and now posted on Craig’s personal website with his name as author). He says that he wants the white paper removed from certain websites – such as Bitcoin.org, BitcoinCore.org and Bitcoin.com – which use it to promote Bitcoin Core (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Those are two competing versions of Bitcoin which no longer represent Bitcoin at all. Instead, Craig and many others argue that Bitcoin’s original design and protocol, as described in the white paper and other early Satoshi writings, now live only in the form of Bitcoin SV (BSV).
But what’s the difference between Bitcoin variants and why does it matter?
The Satoshi white paper explains Bitcoin is intended to be a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” that makes Internet commerce payments more cost-efficient, including for “small casual transactions.” An efficient online payments infrastructure – a true electronic cash system widely used in daily life – requires a network that can handle huge volumes of fast transactions, processed for minimal fees. Satoshi reinforced this point early in Bitcoin’s life, writing in 2009 that Bitcoin can scale and “never really hits a scale ceiling.”
Yet despite the clear intent of Bitcoin’s creator to scale the network and establish it as more efficient infrastructure for online payments, the Bitcoin Core protocol developers who assumed control of the Bitcoin project (known under ticker symbol BTC) following Nakamoto’s exit in 2011 effectively crippled the BTC blockchain. They rejected scaling – limiting on-chain capacity to a maximum of 7 transactions per second, driving transaction fees sky-high; so now BTC is promoted as “digital gold” and a “store of value” reserve asset, rather than as the system of peer-to-peer electronic cash for daily use envisioned by Satoshi. The BTC network further strayed with the introduction of Segregated Witness (SegWit), a change which fundamentally altered the network such that it, by definition, can no longer be called Bitcoin; and other features such as replace-by-fee (RBF), a mechanism for replacing one version of an unconfirmed transaction with a different version of the transaction that pays a higher fee.
In 2017, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) emerged supposedly to continue Bitcoin’s vision to be “peer-to-peer electronic cash.” I and others supported BCH for some time, until it became clear BCH protocol developers wanted to again significantly deviate away Satoshi’s design – such as changing the transaction ordering scheme and introducing a new signature technique that can be used to deliberately obfuscate transactions under a misguided notion of “privacy,” despite Bitcoin being designed to be a public, auditable ledger for honest transactions. Furthermore, BCH remains frozen at the same (still rather small) block cap it has had since 2018 and has failed to scale anywhere close to the levels Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned.
That is why Bitcoin SV (Satoshi Vision) emerged in 2018 to ensure the original design for Bitcoin is finally fulfilled. Bitcoin SV has almost entirely restored Satoshi’s Bitcoin protocol, with no default limit on the size of the blocks on its blockchain and thus its transaction capacity. It also restored many of Satoshi’s original technical functions – such as removing artificial limits on the size and capabilities of transactions, and restoring the full original functionality of Bitcoin Script (the programming language used within the Bitcoin protocol). With unbounded scaling, transaction fees remain minimal and predictable – the median transaction fee on the Bitcoin SV network in 2020 was generally less than 1/100 of a U.S. cent. That makes Bitcoin SV a fast and efficient system for electronic cash payments, including for “small casual transactions”, just as Satoshi described in his white paper. While many industry observers view BSV as a fork of BTC and BCH, Craig and others argue BSV is merely the new name and ticker symbol for the original Bitcoin which it alone continues.
So, what do the Bitcoin white paper and copyright law have to do with this?
Craig swears that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, author of the Bitcoin white paper, and owner of its copyright. As such, he is asserting some of the exclusive rights given by copyright ownership, namely that a copyright holder has the exclusive right to control the reproduction and public display of their work.
Craig’s legal demand letters have caused quite a stir, leading to many angry comments on social media. Opponents of Craig’s action think that he is trying to suppress the white paper or inhibit open-source development, but I do not believe that to be the case.
Rather, because BTC and BCH no longer follow the original network protocol or economic incentive model prescribed by Satoshi Nakamoto in the white paper, Craig says that as the copyright holder, he does not want it associated with marketing BTC, BCH or any other digital currency which is not Bitcoin – including on websites such as Bitcoin.org, BitcoinCore.org and Bitcoin.com.
The controversy has also revealed some great ironies in the digital currency space.
BTC supporters are vocally defending the Bitcoin white paper, even though the current maintainer of the Bitcoin.org website (a long time BTC supporter using the pseudonym Cobra Bitcoin) has admitted that Satoshi’s paper no longer describes BTC. As far back as 2016, Cobra wrote “the Bitcoin described in the paper and the Bitcoin [BTC] described on Bitcoin.org are starting to diverge.” In 2017, he even called the white paper “outdated and incorrect” in its ability to describe BTC, and “At some point, I think the paper will start to do more harm than good, because it will trick people into believing they understand Bitcoin [BTC].” Cobra has thus called for updating the white paper to more accurately reflect BTC.
Despite such feelings that Satoshi’s white paper no longer describes BTC, competing Bitcoin camps are attacking Bitcoin SV and its supporters – even going so far as to call for (illegal) 51% attacks against the BSV network – simply because they dislike Craig. So I want to make this abundantly clear: this is one man trying to claim his personal legacy as the creator of Bitcoin. While many of us (me included) certainly have opinions about it, this is a battle for Craig.
As I’ve said before, Bitcoin SV is much bigger than Craig Wright or any one person. Around the world, the Bitcoin SV ecosystem has grown dramatically, with many consumers, developers, start-up ventures, larger businesses, mining groups, service providers, and even a country (the small island nation of Tuvalu in the South Pacific) using or working with Bitcoin SV. We’re seeing powerful blockchain applications built across many industry sectors – fintech, health care, supply chain, RegTech, Internet of Things, social media, online games, esports, and AR/VR. With a big wave of innovation coming and so many people now involved, I am confident that Bitcoin SV will succeed irrespective of whether Craig Wright enforces copyright, wins or loses his legal battles, or convinces people he created Bitcoin.
And that’s exactly the way it should be – focus on the utility of the digital asset and its blockchain technology. Personally, I believe that Craig is Satoshi Nakamoto. But I’ve also repeatedly said that people should support Bitcoin SV because it correctly fulfils Bitcoin’s original vision and because its blockchain simply works (and works the best) – not based upon their belief as to whether or not Craig is Satoshi. With Bitcoin SV, we are building the most transformative data network the world has seen since the introduction of the Internet – and that’s what it’s all about – this is first and foremost about the technology.
While I’m sure many of you will watch the latest round of drama to emerge from the digital asset sphere with interest, for the rest of us across the global Bitcoin SV ecosystem, we’ll continue to work every day to build a bigger vision for the world with Bitcoin.