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Remember when podcaster Peter McCormack called self-proclaimed Bitcoin inventor Craig Wright a "fraud" earlier this year, and Wright sued him for defamation?
McCormack's lawyers have bitten back today, arguing that Wright was already “wholly discredited” well before McCormack's claims were made, and that Wright is being "hugely wasteful" of the court's time by refusing to offer cryptographic proof.
The defense also described Wright's suit as a "cynical and abusive use of the court process," and has asked that the court strike the case out if Wright fails to deliver any proof before the trial begins in earnest.
Wright, who claims to be Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, filed suit in March against McCormack and several others in the crypto space including Ethereum inventor Vitalik Buterin and Bitcoin Cash booster Roger Ver, all of whom had accused Wright of fraudulently posing as Satoshi.
But, in a response filed with the England and Wales High Court today, McCormack’s defense argued that McCormack’s allegations were in the “public interest” and merely reiterated matters already largely known to McCormack’s following.
To make its point that Wright's reputation was already in the doldrums before McCormack assailed him, the defense described several instances of Wright publicly undermining himself. These include the Australian computer scientist’s supposed “cryptographic proof” that “very publicly failed" in 2016, and Wright’s own open acknowledgement that few people believe him.
There are many ways Wright, if he is Satoshi, could provide cryptographic proof of his credentials. He could send a Bitcoin from Satoshi's publicly known wallet, for instance, or sign a message and verify it with Satoshi's public key.
But since “outing” himself as Satoshi in late 2015, Wright has consistently failed to offer up such proof of his claims, drawing skepticism. In past comments, he has described the flurry of lawsuits as a way to recast the debate as a legal one and settle it in court.
But in April, Wright’s supporter Calvin Ayre tweeted that the case was intended to induce “a moron” to “bankrupt themselves trying to prove a negative,” allowing Wright to subsequently “show the proof.” If Wright does indeed have “the proof,” McCormack’s defense argued, the case would be a “hugely wasteful and disproportionate use of court resources.”
If the suit collapses, Wright’s reputation could suffer. McCormack’s defense asserts that much of the momentum behind Wright’s “fork” of Bitcoin, Bitcoin SV, comes from Wright’s claim of being Satoshi, and a ruling against him could further deflate the asset’s price. Indeed, the defense frames Wright’s legal posturing as a means of “encouraging interest in, and increasing the value of, Bitcoin SV.”
The case is being waged in the UK, which is known for its plaintiff friendly libel laws. But McCormack's defense argue that the UK isn't the appropriate stage for the lawsuit, given the limited reach of Wright’s influence in the country. (Ver took a similar tack last week, and successfully had Wright’s lawsuit against him dismissed.)
Interestingly, the lawyers also made the argument that McCormack’s alleged libel took the form of a tweet, which is “more akin to verbal banter than edited news copy.” Whether the case ends up having landmark legal significance for hateful twitterers everywhere remains to be seen.
Wright is simultaneously involved in several more lawsuits, including an ongoing one in Florida against the brother of his late business partner, Dave Kleiman, who is demanding half of the 1 million bitcoins supposedly mined by Wright in Bitcoin's early days.
Wright's alleged failure to deliver cryptographic proof in the Florida case, McCormack's defense suggests, may not bode well for his UK proceedings.
Wright declined to comment.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Satoshi mined 1 million bitcoins, not 1 billion.