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Bitcoin: It’s Origins and Copyright Ownership in US

Written by Mark Reed on 23 May 2019

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It was thought that the bubble had been burst on Bitcoin but a new copyright application has been filed in the US which has made Bitcoin a talking point again and raised its value. I thought it would be appropriate to remind ourselves of Bitcoin’s Origins and who created it.

Bitcoin.org was the first sighting of the name Bitcoin which was registered in August 2008. On 31 October 2008 a white paper (which is a report that is authoritative and guides the reader concisely on a fairly complex issue) was published by what we now know to be an alias called Satoshi Nakamoto. The paper was titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System and eventually released in January 2009 before steadily building to be what it is now.

The one thing that was never resolved from its inception was who is the owner, the creator of the white paper and who named Bitcoin. The interesting developed recently has been when Craig Wright, a computer scientist and businessman has filed with the US Copyright Office to be the true author of the White Paper and code. It was after this registration that Wright publicised the certificates with registration No. TXu 2-136-996 and also no. TX-8-708-058 claiming that even the US Copyright Office have acknowledged his ownership.

The US Copyright Office has surprisingly announced a formal response to this publicity that Wright has pushed by saying: -

“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. 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.”

It is important to note that although someone can file an application in the US to claim copyright over something, this does not automatically afford them ownership over it and is not given a formal investigation to ascertain truth in it. However, there was 'apparently' a press release stating “Importantly, the registrations issued by the US Copyright Office recognize Wright as the author – under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto – of both the white paper and code. This is the first government agency recognition of Craig Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin.”

It has been rebutted since by saying that this is not true and although it has created a hike in price for Bitcoin, there has been a nice sum up over the reality of the US Copyright Office by Coin Center founder Jerry Brito who explained that the U.S. Copyright Office does not investigate the validity of claims like these and they simply just register it. “Unfortunately, there is no official way to challenge a registration so if there are competing claims, the Office will just register all of them.”

This is different to other jurisdictions because in the UK there are no such registration process and if one person tried to claim ownership over work then it would become contentious and the court would decide who had earlier rights based on evidence. This is important to note because there are numerous circumstances when just by showing a registration number this is considered enough to maintain ownership over work when in fact it is meaningless so is just a method of recording copyright in the US.

If you have any Copyright issues or wish to discuss ownership, please contact the office.

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Michael Coyle quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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