In brief

  • A pseudonymous Medium author claims that Craig Wright’s legal dissertation is largely plagiarized.
  • Wright appears to have copied other people’s work verbatim without crediting them.
  • This isn't a first. Wright has been accused of plagiarism and faking things in the past.

Craig Wright, the Australian computer programmer who claims to be the creator of bitcoin, has taken a hardline on plagiarism in the past. At one point, he even went so far as to call it “criminal fraud.” Yet, a new report accuses him of doing that very thing. 

In a Medium article published Thursday, pseudonymous author “Paintedfrog” argues that a dissertation Wright submitted in February 2008 for an academic law degree is chock full of other people’s work—and Wright wasn't giving them credit for it. 

Wright completed his degree in International Commercial Law for Northumbria University. His 90-page dissertation, titled The Impact of Internet Intermediary Liability, is publically available on the online scholarly database SSRN.

“The work is heavily plagiarized,” Paintedfrog wrote. “Much of the text is taken—both in paraphrase and verbatim form—from other works with no credit given.”  

As evidence, Paintedfrog includes several screenshots showing passages from Wright’s dissertation next to those taken from other publicly available bodies of work. 

Specifically, Paintedfrog claims that Wright borrowed heavily from Hilary E. Pearson’s 14-page Liability of Internet Service Providers, which was written in 1996. Of the 58 paragraphs in Pearson’s paper, “Wright appropriated 45 of them; 25 in full and 20 in large part,” Paintedfrog said. 

Paintedfrog highlights sections from Craig Wright's text taken from someone else's earlier work. Image: Paintedfrog

Paintedfrog says that Wright also took and reworded a section of another one of Pearson’s papers, Intellectual Property and the Internet: A Comparison of U.K. and U.S. Law (1998), again without citation. 

Wright’s dissertation also cites The Promise of Internet Intermediary Liability by Ronald Mann and Seth Belzley (2005) as one of its sources. However, as Paintedfrog illustrates, large portions of the paper’s footnotes can be found in Wright’s 2008 paper, copied word for word. 

Paintedfrog notes that Wright took from other sources as well. Wright also used text from Wikipedia articles in his own paper without citing his source or crediting the contributor. “In terms of bad practice this is probably lesser an offense than the preceding entries, but it should be noted,” Paintedfrog said. 

Quick fix 

After word of Paintedfrog’s Medium post spread across social media, it appears Wright accessed his dissertation to make some changes. SSRN shows that the paper was recently revised on April 10. (It had previously sat untouched for three years, since it was initially uploaded.)  The latest version includes a credit to Pearson in the intro.

“New version now up on SSRN,” Paintedfrog announced in a tweet. “He added one measly reference to Pearson lol.” 

Wright has several advanced degrees, including a PhD in computer science, a doctorate in theology, and a master’s in statistics. He has a total of 36 papers uploaded onto SSRN. 

This is not the first time he’s been accused of taking other people’s works without crediting them for the work. 

In July 2017, Wright published The Fallacy of Selfish Mining: A Mathematical Critique to show that proposed changes to Bitcoin could make the protocol less secure. The paper purportedly relies on a theorem of gambling system proposed in 2003 by Wen Liu and Jinting Wang. The problem is that Wright never cited them, and apparently even used large parts of their work verbatim.  

There have also been several accusations of fraud and dishonesty against Wright.

Since May 2016, Wright has claimed to be the sole creator of Bitcoin. He still hasn’t been able to prove it, however. 

In an ongoing lawsuit against him, a Florida judge recently threw out Wright’s latest excuse as to why he couldn’t demonstrate he has access to 1.1 million Bitcoin he allegedly mined—the one thing that would prove without a doubt that he is, in fact, Bitcoin’s creator—due to “attorney-client privilege.” And a year ago, he was also accused of producing a fake email in the billion-dollar lawsuit. 

What will he be accused of faking next? One has to wonder. Decrypt reached out to Wright for comment. If he responds, we will update this story.