A copyright lawsuit brought by Craig Wright — the man who has claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym used by the creator of bitcoin — could finally put to bed the years-long mystery over who actually invented the multibillion-dollar cryptocurrency.
That's because the success of the lawsuit would likely depend on Wright proving that he did, in fact, author the white paper that originally laid out the technology behind bitcoin. And the case could force the U.K. court to weigh in on whether or not Wright is the actual inventor of bitcoin, according to Reuters.
And in fact, Wright says he has evidence that can prove he is the author of the white paper.
London's High Court ruled on Thursday that Wright, the Australian computer scientist who first said in 2016 that he created bitcoin eight years earlier, could serve his copyright lawsuit against the anonymous operator and publisher of the website bitcoin.org, according to Reuters.
Wright's lawsuit accuses bitcoin.org of copyright infringement for displaying a copy of the infamous bitcoin white paper, which he claims he wrote in 2008 outlining what bitcoin is and how it works. He's asking the court to force bitcoin.org to remove the white paper from the website.
Bitcoin.org has refused to remove the white paper from the website, and posted a statement in January saying Wright's "claims are without merit."
Wright's goal is to provide evidence that he is the author of the 2008 white paper and, thus, that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym used by the mysterious creator of bitcoin, his lawyer told Reuters.
"In bringing this copyright claim our client, Dr. Wright, will be serving evidence in support of his assertion that he authored the bitcoin white paper, that he released in 2008," Simon Cohen, a lawyer with British law firm Ontier who is representing Wright, said in a statement provided to CNBC Make It. "The case will turn on whether the court is satisfied that Dr. Wright did indeed author — and owns the copyright in — the white paper and, therefore, that he is Satoshi Nakamoto."
Wright has not yet revealed exactly what evidence he plans to put forward to support his claims in court. But there is a convincing way to prove whether Wright is Nakamoto, says William and Mary Law School professor Eric Chason, who researches cryptocurrencies.
"The strongest evidence that Mr. Wright could put on would be if he could show control over some of the early bitcoin mined by Satoshi Nakamoto," Chason says.
Yes, experts believe that the inventor (or inventors) of bitcoin mined a portfolio of more than 1 million bitcoin — a stash that today would be worth just shy of $50 billion.
Wright would also likely need to rely on a cryptographic expert to verify the authenticity of his evidence in order to win the approval of a court, says Chason.
And Wright may have other avenues to explore to support his copyright claim, according to Chason.
For instance, he could show the ability to access Nakamoto's accounts on the online forums where the bitcoin creator interacted with developers and the cryptocurrency community in the early days of bitcoin.
Or, if he has computer files showing research or writing on bitcoin as a concept that pre-date the 2008 white paper, or even dated correspondence (such as an email to a colleague showing an early draft of the paper or bitcoin research), that could be enough to sway the court.
"It would be a great courtroom drama, though, if he could just go to court and press a button" transferring control of some of the bitcoin known to have been mined by Nakamoto, Chason says. "That would be convincing, and a pretty cool story."
In 2008, the nine-page white paper outlining the idea for bitcoin was published to a mailing list for cryptography enthusiasts by an author calling themself Satoshi Nakamoto. The white paper described bitcoin as "a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [that] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution."
Nakamoto then officially launched the first version of bitcoin software in early 2009, collaborating with software developers and coders online over the next couple of years to improve the software. In 2010, the value of a single bitcoin was roughly 8 cents, and by the end of the year the total value of the cryptocurrency topped $1 million.
However, no one ever knew the true identity of Nakamoto, as experts believe the pseudonym could have represented either one person, or even a group of people.
The mystery around Nakamoto only deepened in 2011, when the pseudonymous creator stopped working on bitcoin altogether and essentially disappeared, handing control of the open-source code that enables the use of bitcoin to software engineer Gavin Andresen, who was among the developers who helped to refine bitcoin's software in its early days.
Meanwhile, whoever Nakamoto is may have walked away with about 5% of the cryptocurrency's total value that had been mined since 2009.