Copyright Office Weighs In After Wannabe Satoshi Craig Wright Registers Copyright On Original Bitcoin Paper

from the it-never-ends dept

I was tempted to start this post with just a series of head-smashing-into-desk emojis, but I thought that might come off as a bit weird. Remember Craig Wright? He's the somewhat controversial guy who has claimed to have really been Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of people who do not believe Craig Wright, and have highlighted how Wright has failed to provide any of the fairly straightforward methods the original Satoshi could use to prove who he was, and instead used complicated methods that suggest gamesmanship, rather than actual proof.

As we've highlighted in our posts, Wright seems most focused on patenting everything he can with regards to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency -- which, at the very least, seems to go against the open, sharing nature that was a key part of the early cryptocurrency community that Satoshi Nakamoto supported.

And now comes the somewhat hilarious report that Wright has tried to register the copyright on the original Bitcoin whitepaper that Satoshi Nakamoto published. This is basically a troll move. Registering the copyright is meaningless. The Copyright Office does not review carefully if you are the actual creator. It's mostly a rubber stamp process -- and it's rarely an issue because in most cases if someone tried to fraudulently register someone else's copyright, that would come out pretty quickly and it would not take long to sort out what's real. But in this case, when you have an anonymous secret author, it gets a little more complicated.

As CoinCenter's Jerry Brito notes this is sort of a bug of the system, but he also notes that someone else could also register the copyright and see if Wright would actually sue over it (in which case, he'd have to establish to a court that he actually held the copyright):

The situation is getting so much attention, that even the Copyright Office has decided to weigh in, highlighting (as we note above) that it doesn't have any methodology for reviewing these registrations, or for anyone to contest them, and that any such situation would have to happen in federal court (most likely if anyone tried to enforce the copyright).

As a general rule, when the Copyright Office receives an application for registration, the claimant certifies as to the truth of the statements made in the submitted materials. The Copyright Office does not investigate the truth of any statement made.

A registration represents a claim to an interest in a work protected by copyright law, not a determination of the truth of the claims therein. It is possible for multiple, adverse claims to be registered at the Copyright Office. The Copyright Office does not have an opposition procedure for copyright registrations, such as the procedures available at the Patent and Trademark Office for patents and trademark registrations. Disputes over the claims in a registration may be heard before federal courts, including disputes over authorship of a work. Someone who intentionally includes false information in an application may be subject to penalties.

The Copyright Office also points out that it merely asks the applicant to state that they are the author of a pseudonymous piece of content.

In a case in which a work is registered under a pseudonym, the Copyright Office does not investigate whether there is a provable connection between the claimant and the pseudonymous author.

In the case of the two registrations issued to Mr. Wright, during the examination process, the Office took note of the well-known pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto,” and asked the applicant to confirm that Craig Steven Wright was the author and claimant of the works being registered. Mr. Wright made that confirmation. This correspondence is part of the public registration record.

So, this probably doesn't matter, because if Wright actually wants to enforce the copyright, then he'd have to go to court and prove that he was the legitimate holder of the copyright (and the registration by itself won't cut it). But, as a purely dickish way to try to game the system to pretend you have proof of being "Satoshi Nakamoto," it seems to fit in with a pattern of past behavior by Wright. Though not by Nakamoto. Still, it will be interesting to see if this copyright ever ends up in court.

For those of you who have been desperate for a crazy copyright case since the end of the monkey selfie case, I would nominate this potential lawsuit as a worthy followup.

Filed Under: bitcoin, copyright, copyright office, copyright registration, craig wright, satoshi nakamoto, whitepaper


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  • icon
    aethercowboy (profile), 24 May 2019 @ 10:10am

    But..

    If he gets a copyright on it, he invented it, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2019 @ 10:13am

    Rumour has it he may have also created email.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Not.You, 24 May 2019 @ 12:30pm

      Re:

      I expect that douche-bag Ayyadurai will be trying to get a court to force Techdirt to reveal the identity of Anonymous Coward so they can be sued for slander (and no doubt the identity of Not.You for same).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2019 @ 12:35pm

    So if something is made public and not under a license, some large corporation could register it, and good luck fighting them in court?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 24 May 2019 @ 2:36pm

      Re:

      So if something is made public and not under a license, some large corporation could register it, and good luck fighting them in court?

      The thing is, registering it is meaningless, unless they try to enforce it. And then the initial burden is on them to prove they legitimately hold the copyright. So it's not actually a huge worry. Could it happen? Maybe? But the circumstances where it would be effective and/or a problem are... pretty difficult to conceptualize.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2019 @ 8:16am

        Re: Re:

        The problem is that most people would rather not go to the bother of fighting a lawsuit in court, and would rather just settle. You’d talked about this problem before.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 24 May 2019 @ 4:36pm

    Analogies

    Craig Wright:Satoshi :: Shiva : inventor of email

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 May 2019 @ 5:59pm

    Words to never say: 'What's the worst that could happen?'

    So, this probably doesn't matter, because if Wright actually wants to enforce the copyright, then he'd have to go to court and prove that he was the legitimate holder of the copyright (and the registration by itself won't cut it).

    As a site that regularly covers trademark, patent and copyright abuse, framing his act here as 'no big deal' strikes me as just a tad naive. He wouldn't have to ever sue over the copyright(where it could be challenged, assuming he didn't just cut and run) to cause serious damage with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2019 @ 2:30am

      Re: Words to never say: 'What's the worst that could happen?'

      Copyright, unlike patents, does not give the right to license implementation of what is described. Also, Craig Wright runs the risk of becoming a proven plagiarist if he cannot hold an intelligent and detailed discussion of the mathematics of the block chain..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GHB (profile), 25 May 2019 @ 6:35am

    This can lead to plagerism.

    Very shocked to see that despite being a government agency, they don't check, this is a vulnerability for anonymous works to be “stolen” by a fraudster.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 25 May 2019 @ 7:41am

    IP isn't property

    There's nothing being stolen here other than stolen valor. The anonymous work remains as is. Some liar claims he wrote it. Being assigned a copyright is a formality and unnecessary unless you intend to sue for statutory damages... at which point you still must prove to be the author.

    This gets him nothing tangible (there's the Imaginary part of IP) but allows him to claim a copyright on a document he likely didn't write. Consider it a resumé padding device, not anything of value, and certainly not a theft of anything except his own credibility.

    Shiva Ayyadurai bis.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andy J, 25 May 2019 @ 8:14am

    It may cut it

    "So, this probably doesn't matter, because if Wright actually wants to enforce the copyright, then he'd have to go to court and prove that he was the legitimate holder of the copyright (and the registration by itself won't cut it)".
    That kind of overlooks 17 U.S. Code § 410(c) https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/410 which says that prima facie, registration shall be taken as evidence of the facts stated in the registration, ie valid ownership, and leaves it the court to decide where the onus lies for either proving or disproving that assertion. I suspect a defendant would have an uphill battle trying to prove that Craig Wright wasn't the author, if that was the way the court exercised its discretion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Châu, 1 Jun 2019 @ 1:12am

    Another bug in system

    Paper publish in year 2009. Any copyright office should reject because paper publish with no register or copyright warning AND wait 10 years!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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