Craig Wright, the man who has claimed to be Bitcoin’s anonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto, is set for a date in court with Peter McCormack, the host of crypto podcast What Bitcoin Did, over McCormack’s insistence that Wright is not responsible for creating the cryptocurrency. Many observers think that the onus is on Wright to prove he is Nakamoto, but the truth of the matter is entirely different, and could in fact favor Wright. This is down to a lack of understanding about defamation laws in the UK and how it interprets burden of proof in such matters.
McCormack’s Big Burden of Proof
Many observers think that Craig Wright, having brought the case against McCormack (amongst others), will now have to go to court to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, when in fact the onus is on Peter McCormack to prove that he isn’t. UK law stipulates that in a libel or defamation case there is a presumption of falsity at the outset, which means that the case will start with the belief that the defamatory statement at its heart, in this case that Craig Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto, is false. This will mean McCormack having to prove that Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto, instead of Wright having to prove that he is.
If we compare this to a murder case, it’s McCormack’s job to prove that Wright isn’t a murderer. The best way of doing this is to provide the court with the name of an alternative suspect, backed up by compelling evidence. The problem is that after ten years of looking, no one has come up with compelling evidence of anyone being Nakamoto (setting Wright’s claims aside), so unless McCormack can get his hands on something incontrovertible that names someone else as Nakamoto, this option is out. Wright will likely trot out the same forged documents and transaction signatures to back up his claim, all of which has already been debunked. However, even if McCormack can disprove every piece of Wright’s evidence it still won’t be enough to win the case, unless his own evidence points clearly towards another candidate.
What is Satoshi Nakamoto?
There will also be the issue of how to define who or what Satoshi Nakamoto is. Wright has claimed that the name refers to a working group of which he was the head, whereas others claim it is a single person, as McCormack seems to be emphasizing. To decide this, a preliminary hearing will take place with evidence presented on both sides for the judge to decide how the term Satoshi Nakamoto will be defined.
This case could be huge for both sides, as defining Nakamoto, and therefore Wright, as a single entity will be beneficial for McCormack, whereas defining Nakamoto as a group of people favors Wright – the more focused the target, the easier it will be to focus the case towards it.
Unless there is comprehensive enough evidence presented by one side over the other, it is unlikely that the judge will rule definitely whether Wright is or isn’t the creator of Bitcoin. Should the case even make it to court, one person will win and one will lose, which will allow us to draw the following conclusions:
McCormack wins: Craig Wright is not, in the eyes of English law, Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto
Wright wins: It has not been proved, in the eyes of English law, that Craig Wright is not Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright cannot use this judgment as proof that he is.
A victory for either side will probably be taken out of context by its supporters, instead of the likely truth – that we will still not know who created Bitcoin.