Bitcoin.org's 'Cøbra' Must Unmask to Challenge Craig Wright's Legal Costs, UK Court Rules

Wright, the self-proclaimed inventor of Bitcoin, was granted permission to serve legal papers on Cøbra as he sought a declaration of his ownership of copyright to the Bitcoin white paper.

AccessTimeIconNov 25, 2022 at 3:09 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 28, 2022 at 4:58 p.m. UTC

Sandali Handagama is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She does not own any crypto.

Cøbra, the pseudonymous operator of bitcoin.org must reveal their identity should they want to contest legal costs demanded by the self-proclaimed inventor of Bitcoin, Craig Wright, in a lawsuit, the High Court in London has ruled.

The costs against Cøbra were awarded in a copyright case related to the the Bitcoin white paper, the cryptocurrency's founding manifesto. Wright, an Australian computer scientist, has long claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin. He accused Cøbra and bitcoin.org of infringing his rights after the website published the white paper, attributed to Satoshi. Wright sought a declaration that, as Satoshi, he owned the copyright.

Wright was granted permission to serve legal papers on Cøbra in April 2021. That June, after Cøbra failed to appear in court, a judge issued a default order to Cøbra to take down the white paper.

This is not Wright's first spin about a courtroom. He suffered a loss this October in Norway, where he was sued for claiming and failing to prove that he is Satoshi. The judge in the case ruled there was enough evidence that Wright had lied and cheated in his attempts to prove he was indeed the inventor of the cryptocurrency. Wright is appealing that ruling, his legal team said.

Unidentified defendants are typically not required to reveal themselves and their addresses in similar cases. This instance is different because the pseudonymous operator of bitcoin.org, through their representatives, challenged Wright's legal costs. To do so they must drop their anonymity, Costs Judge Jason Rowley said in a ruling dated Nov. 24, reviewed and verified by CoinDesk.

Rowley said the move to contest the costs "is in contrast to the substantive proceedings where the defendant seemed to be rather sanguine about the effect of the injunction, namely the removal of the relevant document from the website."

"Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that if the defendant wishes to challenge the claimant’s bill of costs, then they will have to identify themselves in the manner indicated in the application notice," Rowley said in the order. "Until that has occurred, the court cannot take notice of the points of dispute that have been served."

Rowley also said that should Cøbra not wish to unmask themselves, they can request anonymization. That, however, will not prevent the claimant from learning their name.

"I accept that that does not generally prevent the opponent from knowing who the party is, but that is the extent to which a party can be involved in proceedings and limit their identification," the ruling said.

Cøbra has 21 days from Thursday to appeal and another 14 to "identify themselves if they are going to do so."

"In the absence of either an appeal or an identification, the claimant will be at liberty to seek a default costs certificate in five weeks’ time," the ruling said.

The document also revealed that, after the default judgment last June, "the judge declined to carry out any summary assessment of the costs and ordered that they should go for detailed assessment." Wright had then sought what a judge deemed a “staggering” interim payment and was instead awarded "what appears to be a relatively low percentage" of the costs claimed

The total sum ordered was 35,000 British pounds ($42,261) including tax.

Jaime Crawley contributed reporting.

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Sandali Handagama is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She does not own any crypto.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Sandali Handagama is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She does not own any crypto.