What happened in the Wright vs BTC Core Developer Trail?

There’s been an ongoing legal battle between Craig Wright and a number of Bitcoin core devs which has now concluded, so this article gives you a breakdown of what the case was about, what the result was and some interesting bits of information within the judgement

The case was played out in 3 hearings within early March 2022 and you can read the whole case here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2022/667.html

If you haven’t been following the situation, the TL;DR is that Craig Wright (via his company Tulip Trust — TTL) was trying to sue a number of Bitcoin Core developers, as well as notable parties behind Bitcoin forks, in an attempt to force them create a software “patch” so that he could access the c$3billion in bitcoin within two addresses who’s private keys he’d allegedly had stolen. His argument was that they have control of the network and so have a fiduciary responsibility to make right his loss.

I know … This is a pretty mad legal battle 🙃

Who Was Involved?

Wright had selected a number of Bitcoin Core developers:

WLADIMIR VAN DER LAAN, JONAS SCHNELLI, PIETER WUILLE, MARCO FALKE, SAMUEL DOBSON, MICHAEL FORD, CORY FIELDS, GEORGE DOMBROWSKI, MATTHEW CORALLO, PETER TODD, GREGORY MAXWELL

as well as developers behind Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Cash ABC and even his own Bitcoin SV.

However it’s notable that this is just a subset of all Bitcoin Core developers, and the last Bitcoin Core version saw 128 contributors to the code.

The Judgement

The judge, Mrs Justice Falk, concluded that “At first sight it is very hard to see how TTL’s case on fiduciary duty is seriously arguable. Having now given the matter more detailed consideration I have concluded that my initial impression was correct.” 🔥🔥🔥

Whilst I think any sane person could have come to this conclusion so I’m not at all surprised by the result, there were some interesting nuggets of information within the legal document.

Interesting Case Details

🥊 Judge Falk noted at the outset of the case details that it was clear that there was no love lost between the Wright and the defendants and even took a jab about the amount of paperwork which had been submitted especially around the counter claim from some defendants that the UK court did not have jurisdiction over the case.

“Secondly, the extent of the factual evidence filed has not assisted the court to resolve the jurisdiction challenges. From the court’s perspective it took up a considerable amount of time in preparing for the hearing that should more properly have been devoted to consideration of the legal issues. It was, frankly, an unhelpful distraction.”

🤔 A significant part of Wright’s claim rests of an alleged hack which he says left him without control to a significant number of bitcoins. However it seems that some of the defendants have questioned whether this hack even happened ….

“…, the Defendants challenge whether a hack occurred as alleged. Among other things, they question one of Dr Wright’s responses to the alleged hack, which was to wipe his hard drives, and also question why, if there was a successful hack, the assets have not been moved.”

🌐 When we examine the key ask which Wright is pushing for within this legal challenge it’s hard to see how the man who claims to be Satoshi could have so easily forgotten or discarded the principals of decentralisation within a blockchain network. Firstly he’s trying to force a group of developers who have no authority over a network to try and take unilateral control. Whilst Bitcoin Core is the most popular of all Bitcoin clients, it certainly isn’t the only one and should the core devs have been forced into creating a ‘patch’ to re-assign asset ownership back to Wright there likely would have been a mass movement away from the core client and into alternatives. The result of which would have been the network not enacting the change and Wright’s efforts proving fruitless. After all this is the power of a decentralised network where anyone can run their own full node and decide which upgrades they wish to apply or not.

Secondly this would have violated a fundamental tenet of the network — that bitcoins can only be moved by the associated private key, not by any centralised body. However it appears that Wright might not be so protective over this cryptographic truth anyway …

😱 It seems that the team over at NChain (the company keeping Wright’s Bitcoin SV alive) are thinking of adding a very notable piece of centralised control to their Bitcoin copy;

“In contrast, Dr Wright’s evidence is that nChain, a company of which he is the chief scientific officer, is in the process of developing more complex software that would modify the “client software” used on the BSV Network to provide a systemic solution which would allow assets to be frozen and control to be returned on a case-by-case”.

This should put a chill in any crypto believers bones!

So you might be thinking to yourself why on earth has Wright tried to push this ridiculous legal challenge?

Well, this is of course all speculation but perhaps he’s looking for a way to pay the $100m settlement from the Kleiman case. Especially since the BSV price has been on a downward trajectory since the fork, profits for NChain look underwhelming, and as noted in this legal document

“I saw no evidence that it [TTL] holds any digital assets apart from those the subject of the dispute.”

Or maybe as we’ve seen before Mr Wright just loves taking people to court! He’s gone legal toe to toe with the estate of his deceased business partner Dave Kleiman, sued crypto twitter persona Hodlonaut and crypto podcaster Peter McCormack for saying he’s not Satoshi, and even tried to unmask and sue the maintainer of the bitcoin.org website for alleged copyright in hosting the Bitcoin whitepaper.

However in this case it’s clear that judge Falk has sort to uphold the tenets of decentralisation and rationality and as Satoshi (who’s identity still remains a mystery) said themself:

“Lost coins only make everyone else’s coins worth slightly more. Think of it as a donation to everyone”

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[Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent.]

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Tara Annison

Tara Annison

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