Superman is Clark Kent. Batman is Bruce Wayne. And Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, is…Dr Craig Wright (or so he claims).
Dr Wright is involved in numerous actions in the English courts including Wright & Ors v BTC Core & Ors, where claims of copyright infringement relating to the Bitcoin system are made by Dr Wright against multiple defendants.
The focus of the hearing was whether copyright subsists in a particular electronic file format used in the Bitcoin system, or the “Bitcoin File Format”.
The short answer, no.
Why? Because copyright cannot subsist in computer code (which is a “literary work”) unless and until it is recorded, in writing or otherwise.
The Bitcoin File Format was precisely that: a format, a structure. The data recorded in the Bitcoin File Format was organised according to that structure.
However, the structure itself was not recorded in a line of code. It was not identifiable. There was no standalone piece of code that recorded the Bitcoin File Format. And, as the judge observed, including code that recorded that structure would be unnecessary and an inefficient use of memory. In essence, it was incumbent on Dr Wright to have identified the content of the Bitcoin File Format, not just the structure. By failing to identify the content applying to the Bitcoin File Format, this aspect of the claim did not have a realistic prospect of success and could not continue.
Dr Wright intends to appeal the decision.
Waterfront comment: Copyright does protect various aspects of computer software code. However, this case is a reminder that there is a limit to such protection. Claimants need to sufficiently identify the works in which copyright subsists and the copyright works that they allege are infringing.
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