The Stolen White Paper Caper
Copyright infringement in the evolving world of cryptocurrency.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
If that’s true, then there’s been a whole lot flattery going on in the cryptocurrency space recently. How nice of everyone, right?
Except this brand of flattery isn’t the “Hey, you’re really smart! Can you teach me?” type of flattery.
This brand of flattery lies more along the lines of the drunken frat boy copy and pasting a Wikipedia article the night before his essay is due and demanding an ‘A’ for it. Or the boss’s kid taking credit for the project you just finished.
There have been some very high-profile cases of this, the most famous of which being the allegations that TRON, which at its peak had a market cap of over $17 billion USD, stole whole sections from the IPFS and Filecoin white papers.
These allegations were brought forward on January 5, 2018, by Juawn Benet, who co-wrote both white papers with Protocol Labs. The market cap of TRON, has, since its peak, dropped to just over $4 billion USD.
Here’s Where the Lawyer Steps In…
Luckily, these types of evil shenanigans are taken care of under copyright law, falling squarely within the definition of copyright infringement.
BlockCAT was recently a victim of this type of infringement not once, but twice, which is what drove us to write this article.
Don’t get us wrong — we are big believers in the sharing of information. We strongly believe in the importance of being able to use information fairly — for news reporting, for review, for satire, and for creating something new.
But where we draw the line is where our hard work is passed off by someone looking to deceive, and to profit off of that deceit. For us, this is a matter of credibility and integrity. BlockCAT was the victim of this trend with regards to the awesome white paper we released prior to our token sale.
Want to know why we know it’s awesome? Because it keeps getting stolen by copyCATs (see what I did there?) of our project. The most recent and most blatant project to plagiarize our work was the Extrodium project.
noun: Jerks who stole our white paper
I have posted a side-by-side comparison below for illustration. Don’t bother reading it too intently — the highlighted words are the differences, but everything else was left the same.
By far our favourite edit was this section, which explained where the name “Extrodium” came from:
Who knew Extrodium was shorthand for BlockCAT.
So what does it mean to “infringe copyright”? The Canadian copyright legislation, states that
3. (1) “…copyright, in relation to a work, means the sole right to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part thereof in any material form whatever…and includes the sole right
(a) to produce, reproduce, perform or publish any translation of the work”
I reference the Canadian statute, but copyright law is similar in most countries around the world due to the many international treaties. As a result, enforcement of copyright ownership could involve multiple countries, states, and provinces.
Fortunately, international treaties enable enforcement of copyright laws across borders. A main principle found in both the Berne Convention and later confirmed in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), an agreement between all members of the World Trade Organization, is that:
“Works originating in one of the Contracting States (that is, works the author of which is a national of such a State or works first published in such a State) must be given the same protection in each of the other Contracting States as the latter grants to the works of its own nationals (principle of “national treatment”)”.
The extent of the consequences differ from country to country. In Canada, the issue of copyright infringement is mostly a civil issue (ie. lawsuits, etc.). In Switzerland, the apparent home of Extrodium, there are both civil consequences (ie. getting sued) and criminal consequences (ie. jail time). The latter could explain why the project has gone silent lately…
PROTECT YA NECK
Since the chance of international copyright lawsuits occurring over stolen white papers is slim to none, the most powerful weapons the public has are:(a) self protection, and (b) exposing scams.
The biggest question to ask when assessing whether a blockchain project is legitimate is this: “Will it actually get built?”.
It goes without saying that if someone can’t describe their plan for a project (ie. can’t write an original white paper), that project is not getting built.
So…READ. THE. WHITE. PAPER.
It also doesn’t hurt to google lines from the white paper you are testing. A quick search of the first line of our white paper (“The Ethereum platform has opened our world to the possibility of “programmable money.”) revealed the Extrodium white paper as the second result.
If your quick search turns up a result with similar phrasing, a complete comparison of the document can be done by use of the great online document comparison software at Draftable.com. As the images above comparing our white paper with Extrodium’s white paper show, basically just the names were changed from one white paper to the other.
Even if blockchain projects have an original and professional-looking white paper, though, they may still be full of it. A great indication of this is unnecessary technobabble.
Don’t assume that someone is smart just because you don’t understand them. A lawyer I deeply respect once told me “if you can’t explain something in language that an intelligent 12 year old could understand, you don’t fully understand it yourself”. And if they don’t understand it, they’re not going to build it.
Of course, we realize that in such a hot market, there will be competitors. In my opinion, the existence of competitors is strong validation that we’re onto something — something big.
But as with any hot, new, lucrative industry, there will always be a flood of pretenders trying to cash in quick. With a little due diligence, we can become more critical of the many projects being released, and help flush the industry of the pretenders.