The Copyright for the Satoshi White Paper is Already Causing Trouble

Craig Wright's copyright registration of the Satoshi White Paper is causing some online services to censor the document.

May 31, 2019 at 9:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 9:15 a.m. UTC

Craig Wright's copyright registration of the original bitcoin white paper is starting to create ripple effects.

On May 28 Scribd, a service for posting downloadable documents on the Internet, notified CoinDesk that it had pulled down our copy of the Satoshi Nakamoto white paper.

"This is a notification that Scribd’s BookID copyright protection system has disabled access to Bitcoin White Paper (id: 411710754). This does not necessarily mean that an infringement has occurred, or that you have done anything wrong," the company wrote in a terse email.

This was the link in question – a plain, unmodified copy of the Satoshi white paper. I also uploaded a copy calling it a musical production of the white paper. Scribd did not pull mine down although it should, theoretically, be covered by Wright's copyright.

As we noted before, while Wright did register copyright for the white paper this means absolutely nothing unless someone contests the copyright in court. However, because systems like BookID most likely ping the US copyright database, copies of the paper will be dinged on public services.

Chilling effects

The chilling effects of this are very real. While in our specific case there is little concern the white paper will ever disappear – it will be here forever or until CoinDesk's servers melt down – the loss of access could have far-reaching and unintended consequences.

What's more, anyone can register a copyright for almost anything. Copyright – and patent-trolling – are already rampant in other parts of tech and it's clear blockchain is next.

As for CoinDesk's particular problem, everything seems back to normal... for now.

Jason Bentley, Legal Operations Manager at Scribd, wrote:

Our team has reviewed your response and has determined that Scribd's BookID copyright protection system likely misidentified your content as infringing. We have restored your content and accompanying metrics. It may take several minutes for restored documents to re-appear on Scribd. BookID is part of Scribd's diverse efforts to reinforce the rights of intellectual property rights holders. The volume of content in our copyright database prohibits us from proactively reaching out to uploaders before content is disabled.

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and thank you for using Scribd.

Craig Wright image via CoinDesk Archives


The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.