Forking and Passing Off…

Craig Wright (Bitcoin SV is Bitcoin.)
nChain
Published in
13 min readFeb 13, 2020

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Read the full article and more on my personal blog here.

If you consider what most cryptocurrency proponents [2] are trying to do, you will see an attempt to exclude governments and rights and create a system that cannot be controlled outside the dictation of technocratic developers. Many criminal groups want such a scenario. Unfortunately for them, Bitcoin was designed to provide the opposite outcome.

“Forking” a software branch is allowed under the MIT License. Both Litecoin (LTC) and Ethereum (ETH) present “forked” codebases, derived from Bitcoin. CoreCoin, BTC, differs in the sense that it both copied the database [3] and sought to pass off the new system as the old or original.

To give an analogy, the Bitcoin software that was released as an implementation is an open-source software under the MIT License. Linux and OpenOffice are each open-source products. If I was to write a novel using Linux as the operating system and OpenOffice as the editing platform, the software remains open-source, but the product of my work does not. In other words, I retain the copyright in the works I create using the open-source software. Bitcoin is a distributed registry. Tokens are not distributed as they reside in individual wallets, that are controlled by individuals around the world that use the Bitcoin system. The tokens are distributed in a peer-to-peer manner, from individual to individual. The registry of the movement is a separate peer-to-peer network, that acts within the hybrid system that is Bitcoin. The registry [4] presents the distributed ledger. And the distributed ledger is a database.

As the sole creator of Bitcoin, I own full rights to the Bitcoin registry. People can fork my software and make alternative versions. But, they have no rights to change the protocol using the underlying database. I was explicit when I said so by putting forward reasons not to fork the database. Yet, both Bitcoin Core (Core) and Bitcoin ABC (ABC), global partnerships under law, have sought to use my database without authority. Rather than seeking licences, they have sought to attack my character and impugned me. This year, I am taking charge and control of my system [5]. Those involved with the copied systems that are passing themselves off as Bitcoin, namely BTC or CoreCoin and BCH or BCash, are hereby put on notice. Please trust me when I say that I’m far nicer before the lawyers get involved.

As the creator of Bitcoin, I have what is known as database rights in the European Union and the UK. As a part of distributed global partnerships, senior partners within Core or ABC reside within Europe and the UK, presenting the opportunity to incorporate them in the matter without any jurisdictional challenges. They come under British law [6].

We have started actions to ensure that our trust and related companies become British. That is, we seek to move them into the British residence status. At present, they exist outside of European jurisdictions, across several low-tax regions, including a country that I am a citizen of: Antigua. We have actively selected the UK, knowing that we will be paying tax in the country I have decided to live in, and are in the process of reporting assets we own in the structure to the British government. I have explained many times, Bitcoin is not a system that allows you to avoid government [7]. If such is your goal, you should avoid any blockchain, because blockchains are all traceable.

Database Rights

Bitcoin has been falsely taken to be a system that issues [8] new coins (bitcoin) approximately every 10 minutes, as a payment to nodes for the validation of transactions within the network [9]. Such a perspective would see Bitcoin to come with an ongoing issuance, which is incorrect. The system within Bitcoin was launched with the full issue of all tokens. At its creation, Bitcoin was formulated as a system with a set number of individual tokens, defined as approximately 21 million bitcoin where each bitcoin is an arbitrary verbal representation of 100 million individual and indivisible tokens.

Bitcoin is a distributed database [10] with database rights governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) and the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 (Databases Regulations 1997). As such, the distributed database [11] exists as personal property. The distributed database defined by Bitcoin may correspond to a “property right (“database right”) [that] subsists […] in a database if there has been a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of the database [12]”.

Bitcoin has an issuer. In January 2009, as director of companies I created in multiple jurisdictions, I issued 21 million bitcoin, where each individual bitcoin is an indivisible set of 100 million tokens. To distribute the tokens (and note the word distribute as it is on the original, unilateral contractual offer [13], presented to nodes that act as agents to my network), I set up a contractual arrangement where nodes (which many people call miners today) act within a set of common rules that I defined. If you don’t like the rules, you are free to create a new cryptocurrency as such involved with Litecoin and Ethereum and others have done. If you negotiate with me, arrangements can be made allowing the continuance of selected copies of my network, with a set of restrictions. In other words, I am willing to license [14] the Bitcoin database. I will do so on my terms. While the terms are rather generous right now, I would prefer others as I have been talked into doing something far more generous than I would desire. I would prefer to take things through court, because I will win as those who are currently challenging me do not know what is about to happen. It is time you learn who created Bitcoin, and it is me.

As the creator of Bitcoin, I maintain the sui generis rights to any copy of the database created from Genesis in January 2009. I shall not be relinquishing the ownership. I will be licensing it, and have already engaged in a process so that the original Bitcoin protocol, that I created, known as Bitcoin SV today, will continue no matter what happens to me.

The structure will follow the unilateral contract that I initially presented on the Bitcoin website I set up in 2008. As long as the rules of Bitcoin, the basic protocol does not change, I am bound under a unilateral contract to the nodes, acting as agents within the system. When an illegal copy of the Bitcoin database has not been validly licensed through my companies, the same rules no longer apply. The issue of outstanding tokens may be a promissory condition between developers and others, but it is not something that binds me. And I’m the only one who matters in the scenario. You see, you are trespassing on my property and against property laws.

Databases Regulations 1997

The distributed ledger in Bitcoin is “a collection of independent works, data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means” [15]. The database right protects the collated information itself. Under the same regulation, the initial owner of the database right is the maker of the database [16]. Bitcoin and any blockchain-based system would be covered for the publication period of at least 15 years. Retrospectively, Bitcoin itself, the database was published formally in mid-January 2009.

The operators of Bitcoin nodes are engaged for a fee to provide a service, collating and ordering validated transactions following the process defined in the Bitcoin white paper:

The steps to run the network are as follows:

1) New transactions are broadcast to all nodes.

2) Each node collects new transactions into a block.

3) Each node works on finding a difficult proof-of-work for its block.

4) When a node finds a proof-of-work, it broadcasts the block to all nodes.

5) Nodes accept the block only if all transactions in it are valid and not already spent.

6) Nodes express their acceptance of the block by working on creating the next block in the chain, using the hash of the accepted block as the previous hash.

Node operators are commercial entities who can come and go at will, and provide a pure service. Node operators are paid at a predetermined rate, based on a combination of a decreasing subsidy and the collection of fees from users of the network. The subsidy is issued as payment, given from the initial issuance of bitcoin. The initial issuance meant 21 million bitcoin, in the number of tokens defined. The tokens are paid as consideration for the effort of validating transactions to the nodes.

The subsidy was predefined and algorithmically constructed upon the initial release of the system. The fee is determined by the amount of use, coupled with the competitive commercial market, with users able to set lower fees and nodes able to reject transactions that do not meet a minimum level of fees. Consequently, nodes may be seen as agents of the Bitcoin network with no individual property rights. The maker of any blockchain system is the person who takes the initiative of obtaining, verifying, and presenting the contents of the database and assumes the risk of investing in the process. Bitcoin or any related blockchain structure is a system of issued tokens that are distributed under a set of predefined rules, to node operators who act as agents under the initial rules, set by the creator of the system. Such agents are remunerated on an ad-hoc basis to provide a validated audit of all transactions of the network, checking for double spends, or, the digital equivalent of cheque fraud.

Access to view the distributed database known as a blockchain is provided, through a published dataset, for the purposes of checking and validating transactions. Systematic extraction, and reutilisation, of any section of the blockchain in a copied or forked version of software would lead to a breach [17]. Such a breach would occur in a scenario where a radically altered protocol was launched in what is called by the community a hard or soft fork, that leads to a separation of protocols and competing systems on an exchange. In such a scenario, the rules set by the creator of the system would determine what would be a breach. In the case of Bitcoin, the rules of the system are set in stone [18]. Protocol alterations [19], such as the introduction of Segregated Witness (SegWit) and the additions to operating codes (opcodes) in BTC and BCH, would hence present clear breaches of the database rights associated with Bitcoin.

In the instance where a group has copied Bitcoin or a similar system, the owner can take action to prevent the extraction or reutilisation of the database. Where a software fork is used not to attempt to pass it off as the original, as would be the case with Bitcoin copies or forked or derivative systems like Ethereum and Litecoin, no database rights are breached as a new database is formed utilising the forked software. Where altered protocols such as of BTC involve copying the database from Bitcoin and releasing a system competing to the original, database rights could be expressed and enforced by the creator of the original protocol.

The scenario around Bitcoin differs from Ethereum’s in the sense that the creator of Ethereum forked the system and had not intended for the fork of the Bitcoin system to have a set protocol. When Ethereum and Ethereum Classic separated, Ethereum Classic continued to use a copy of the original Ethereum blockchain. Here, the creator of the system changed the protocol. Consequently, the protocol rights resided with the new version of Ethereum, leaving Ethereum Classic in breach of the database rights owned by the original creator of Ethereum.

Bitcoin Core, on the other hand, is unrelated to the original creator of Bitcoin, and Bitcoin was designed to have a stable protocol, one that did not change. Hence, the alterations of the Bitcoin protocol in 2017 within BTC and in 2018 within BCH, as they formed copies of the protocol based on the original Bitcoin database, presented breaches of the database rights of the creator of Bitcoin.

The structure of Bitcoin is designed such that the public database is available as such and lent out for the purposes of teaching and research, covered under the Databases Regulations reg 12(2) and (3). The Bitcoin blockchain is not given away under public access rights, but rather is provided on terms that will be returned and distributed by the nodes under a set of predefined rules. The distribution and return of the database is delivered for the purposes of validating and auditing the system, allowing the commercial exchange of the tokens. The amount exchanged to nodes covers the mere cost of establishment, and facilitates the commercial realisation of the database.

Licensing and End-User License Agreements

The Bitcoin software was released under the MIT License such that it provided for the rights to copy the software but not the database. The licence included both standard use and a provision for nodes to be paid as agents of the network:

To support the network by running a node, select:

Options->Generate Coins

and keep the program open or minimized. It runs at idle priority when no other programs are using the CPU. Your computer will be solving a very difficult computational problem that is used to lock in blocks of transactions. The time to generate a block varies each time, but may take days or months, depending on the speed of your computer and the competition on the network. It’s not a computation that has to start over from the beginning if you stop and restart it. A solution might be found at any given moment it’s running. As a reward for supporting the network, you receive coins when you successfully generate a block. [20]

The end-user license agreement associated with Bitcoin forms a contractual arrangement, that acts as the agency, between the operator of the node, who acts as a paid contractual agent with the task to validate and collect information forming a distributed database, and the issuer of the system. The operator of the node is both a transaction agent and the transaction facilitator, that acts as a contractual agent for the token issuer and initial distributer [21]. The complex task of maintaining the distributed database (the blockchain ledger), transaction processing and propagation, and the distribution function becomes streamlined when outsourced to a distributed set of agents that provide such services, self-audit, and enforce the rules of the system.

The unilateral offer presented in the Bitcoin EULA [22] acts to provide an agreement comparable to the one inferred by the justices in Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company [23]. The licence entails the payment of a reward for supporting the network, where the contracting agent is provided consideration in the form of coins, that are digital tokens exhibiting properties that are “definable, identifiable by third parties, capable in its nature of assumption by third parties, and have some degree of permanence or stability” [24]. The coins are issued when the agent, through the node, successfully generates a block. Where a company’s website presents claims about a product, and the consumer (or node operator and agent) acts upon the claims, the owners of the website are contractually bound to fulfil their promise.

The original Bitcoin website [25] was provided for and described a system where “Users hold the crypto keys to their own money and transact directly with each other, with the help of the network to check for double-spending”.

The Bitcoin white paper (Wright, 2008) is linked and referenced on the Bitcoin website, and defines the steps required to operate as a node or agent of the network — once again:

The steps to run the network are as follows:

1) New transactions are broadcast to all nodes.

2) Each node collects new transactions into a block.

3) Each node works on finding a difficult proof-of-work for its block.

4) When a node finds a proof-of-work, it broadcasts the block to all nodes.

5) Nodes accept the block only if all transactions in it are valid and not already spent.

6) Nodes express their acceptance of the block by working on creating the next block in the chain, using the hash of the accepted block as the previous hash.

The defined process provides users of the system with extended utility, where nodes maintain transactional data allowing an individual who is not online to connect to the commercial nodes and exchange transactions using a distributed middleman. Whereas such use of the network is not truly peer-to-peer, it provides a “useful alternative if both users can’t be online at the same time or the recipient can’t receive incoming connections” [26].

The Computer Misuse Act 1990 [27] in the UK incorporates the misuse of access to public databases. Such an infringement was tested in Ryanair Ltd v PR Aviation BV (C-30/14) [28]. Ryanair litigated claiming an infringement of database rights that are defined in the Database Directive (96/9/EC), alongside claims of a breach of website terms and conditions. Articles 6, 8, and 15 of the Database Directive do not preclude the introduction of digitally distributed contractual limitations on the use of a database. What follows is that the author of a database may lay down contractual limitations on its use by third parties, even when it is not protected by copyright or the sui generis right.

In the UK, a website operator may try to bring forward a claim of trespass to chattels, a common law tort. An operator may also seek to rely on the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which prohibits unauthorised access to, or modification of, computer material.

Peer-to-Peer

Bitcoin is commonly touted in the press to be a completely decentralised system with no point of ownership. A commonly used quote is cherry-picked out of context to lead to a false view:

Bitcoin is an electronic cash system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending. It’s completely decentralized with no server or central authority. [29]

The original Bitcoin website [30] explained the system differently and in more detail:

Users hold the crypto keys to their own money and transact directly with each other, with the help of the network to check for double-spending.

The same idea was further explained on other sites, such as the P2P Foundation website:

One of the fundamental building blocks for such a system is digital signatures. A digital coin contains the public key of its owner. To transfer it, the owner signs the coin together with the public key of the next owner. Anyone can check the signatures to verify the chain of ownership. It works well to secure ownership, but leaves one big problem unsolved: double-spending. Any owner could try to re-spend an already spent coin by signing it again to another owner. The usual solution is for a trusted company with a central database to check for double-spending, but that just gets back to the trust model. In its central position, the company can override the users, and the fees needed to support the company make micropayments impractical.

Bitcoin’s solution is to use a peer-to-peer network to check for double-spending. In a nutshell, the network works like a distributed timestamp server, stamping the first transaction to spend a coin. It takes advantage of the nature of information being easy to spread but hard to stifle. For details on how it works, see the design paper at http://www.bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf. [31]

In effect, Bitcoin is a combined hybrid system that uses multiple peer-to-peer networks that are interconnected. Users can exchange transactions in a completely peer-based manner, with individuals exchanging directly. At the same time, a separate peer network, based on commercial nodes acting as agents for the network, enables the development of a distributed database based on a unilateral contract…

Read the full article and more on my personal blog here.

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Craig Wright (Bitcoin SV is Bitcoin.)
nChain

My opinions are my own. Eternal student & researcher; plugging Bitcoin from as long as it was lawyer, banker, economist, coder, investor, mathematician, & stats