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Craig Wright trial reveals never-before-seen emails from Satoshi Nakamoto

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The second week of the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) v. Craig Wright trial continued on Thursday and saw witnesses Mike Hearn, Howard Hinnant, and Zooko Wilcox take the stand to answer cross-examination questions.

This UK High Court of Justice lawsuit will resolve the question of whether Craig Wright owns the copyright to Bitcoin’s whitepaper. COPA is suing Wright seeking a court-ordered injunction preventing Wright from asserting authorship claims.

On this particular day of this high-stakes trial, the most important event happened outside the courtroom. As newly-introduced evidence, Blockstream CEO Adam Back, and early Bitcoin developer Martti Malmi published some of their never-before-seen emails with Satoshi Nakamoto on public servers.

As the world reads through over 260 of these newly published emails, enjoy this example excerpt in the verbatim words of Satoshi:

Historically, people have taken up scarce commodities as money, if necessary taking up whatever is at hand, such as shells or stones. Each has a kernel of usefulness that helped bootstrap the process, but the monetary value ends up being much more than the functional value alone.

Most of the value comes from the value that others place in it. Gold, for instance, is pretty, non-corrosive and easily malleable, but most of its value is clearly not from that. Brass is shiny and similar in colour. The vast majority of gold sits unused in vaults, owned by governments that could care less about its prettiness.

Until now, no scarce commodity that can be traded over a communications channel without a trusted third party has been available. If there is a desire to take up a form of money that can be traded over the Internet without a trusted third party, then now that is possible.

-Satoshi Nakamoto

COPA v. Craig Wright day 14 witness #1: Mike Hearn

Hearn is a former Bitcoin developer who emailed directly with Satoshi Nakamoto. His resume includes a position as R3’s lead platform engineer until he resigned in 2021. He also held a position with Oracle, which he described as a “large database company specializing in enterprise products.”

Hearn’s testimony included an explanation of R3’s Corda, a permissioned distributed ledger technology application that Hearn described as suitable for banking and finance. He acknowledged that it had some similarities to Bitcoin. It may have also borrowed some basic ideas from Ethereum, including tokenization and smart contracts.

Wright worked at nChain which promotes the BSV fork of bitcoin. Hearn wasn’t entirely certain whether Corda could be described as an nChain competitor, since he wasn’t familiar with the business.

The Australian entrepreneur’s attorney and Hearn went back and forth about a meeting during which the Wright and Hearn apparently met. Hearn confirmed that he went through some old emails to refresh his memory about the meeting but said he hadn’t known that Wright was in London at the same time he was.

Wright’s attorney suggested that one message indicated that Hearn had asked a mutual acquaintance named Matonis for an introduction. Hearn said he recalled that event transpiring differently. According to Hearn, Matonis had suggested that they meet up for dinner and then suggested that Hearn could meet Wright.

Hearn said that it became clear that Matonis believed Wright was Satoshi Nakamoto during the dinner and wanted Hearn to confirm it. Hearn allowed that his memory of some of the details could be hazy, though he distinctly recalled that he hadn’t signed a non-disclosure agreement during the meeting.

Wright’s attorney then mentioned that nChain co-founder Stefan Matthews had been there, possibly as a “minder” for intellectual property topics. Hearn maintained that he was mostly interested in core Bitcoin technology and uninterested in patents or intellectual property discussions.

Hearn and Wright’s legal team also disagreed on an interpretation of the topics discussed during the dinner. Hearn reiterated that he was disinterested in patents held by nChain and was more interested in the technology. However, Stefan Matthews apparently didn’t see it that way.

On another topic, there was a brief back-and-forth about whether Hearn actually had seen Stefan Matthews’ testimony during Day 11 of this month’s trial.

COPA trial: ‘Very annoying’ Craig Wright was ‘into Japanese stuff’

On yet another topic, Hearn’s testimony also touched on some of the reasons Hearn stepped back as a Bitcoin developer in 2016. Around that time, lines were already being drawn for what would become known as Bitcoin’s ‘Blocksize War.’

The dispute over the file size of Bitcoin’s blockchain split developers into two camps — Core, which favored small file sizes, and Wright and Roger Ver’s camp which preferred large file sizes.

After years of fighting, one camp eventually hard-forked Bitcoin (BTC) into Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Later, after a falling out between Ver and Wright, Craig Wright and his supporters forked BCH to create Bitcoin SV (BSV).

During the Blocksize War, Hearn supported big blocks. However, instead of supporting the Ver/Wright camp, he introduced Bitcoin XT, which would have immediately increased Bitcoin blocks’ file size limit from one megabyte to eight megabytes. Furthermore, Hearn’s Bitcoin XT would have doubled the block size every two years until the limit reached a stunning eight gigabytes.

Obviously, Hearn’s Bitcoin XT would have required a hard fork of Bitcoin’s code plus a community to mine and operate nodes on Bitcoin XT’s network. This never happened. As Bitcoin XT ultimately failed to gain traction, Hearn left Bitcoin development and sold almost all his coins soon afterward.

Hearn acknowledged that he was approached about the COPA vs. Wright case by Bird & Bird, the law firm representing COPA.

After that, Wright’s legal team had no more questions for Hearn.

COPA’s attorney, Jonathan Hough, had only one question: “Are you Satoshi Nakamoto?” That cracked Hearn up, and he denied being Bitcoin’s creator.

G: «When were you first approached for this trial?»
M: «Last year by @twobirds «
G: «Those are all my questions»

H: «Just the one, ‘Are you Satoshi Nakamoto'»
M: *nearly chokes on water bottle and laughs* «No!»

— CryptoDevil (@CryptoDevil) February 22, 2024

Mike Hearn laughs at the suggestion that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.

COPA v. Craig Wright day 14 witness #2: Howard Hinnant

After a lunch break, Howard Hinnant, a senior software developer for Ripple, took the stand. Hinnant is Ripple’s chief C++ expert and handled foundational work for RippleNet.

Hinnant apparently created the C++ library that Wright claims he used as Satoshi Nakamoto to create Bitcoin. During testimony, Wright’s attorney referred to the library as ‘Project Chrono.’ However, this brought up an interesting chronological question: Did the Project Chrono library exist when Wright claimed to have used it?

Hinnant allowed the possibility that Wright created his own version of the library that he created but considered it “highly, highly unlikely” that he would have used Project Chrono. He compared it to “starting out with the P-51 Mustang [a WWII-era fighter plane] and ending with a Ford Mustang car.”

According to Hinnant, Wright could have used an unrelated library called Chrono around the time that Bitcoin was created, but it had very few similarities to Project Chrono other than its name. He said it was unlikely that Wright would have derived a date/time library from a physics library and that it would be easier to create one from scratch.

COPA v. Craig Wright day 14 witness #3: Zooko Wilcox

After a brief break, the High Court of Justice swore in Zooko Wilcox as the day’s third witness for cross-examination. Wilcox is best known for his association with ZCash and its backing entity, the Electric Coin Company.

Until recently, Wilcox was Electric Coin Company’s CEO. In an update to official information available to the court, he said he was no longer CEO yet was still on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization that owns it.

Wright’s lawyers started by reviewing the history of ZCash and The Electric Coin Company, including their launches in 2015. (Clarifying chronology and certain details is important for verifying some of Wright’s claims.) At launch, he named his company the ZCash Company. Wilcox said the company primarily existed for technology development, education, and documentation. He allowed that The Electric Coin also did some marketing for ZCash but didn’t consider marketing its priority.

His testimony covered ZCash’s privacy tools, including anonymizing features for transactions. Wilcox didn’t recall a particular document titled ‘What is Zcash and what is ZEC,’ saying that the first time he remembered seeing it was when Wright’s lawyers sent it to him.

Wilcox allowed that he had asked to speak with a Forbes reporter for an article titled ‘Cypherpunk Zooko Wilcox Aims To Bring Anonymous Zcash To Law-Abiding Masses.’ One topic involved whether criminals are a target user group of anonymous transactions. Wilcox reiterated that privacy in financial dealings was generally important for stable democracies.

Z: «I see it that privacy is essential for free thought and an important part of stable democratic society. A lot of people tend to see it as a conflict between bad and good elements of society. I see it more as being part of the social order and rule of law and freedom of choice

— CryptoDevil (@CryptoDevil) February 22, 2024

Zooko Wilcox defends privacy transaction technologies for modern societies.

Wilcox acknowledged being one of the ‘original cypherpunks,’ though he said the meaning of ‘cypherpunk’ has changed over time and has encompassed different political positions. He personally believed that cryptography could be a tool for positive social change.

W: «You believe in using cryptography to bring about positive social change»
Z: «Yes the nuance of cypherpunk meaning has changed over time and today it is more like the political persuation you describe but at the time members had lots of different political opinions»

— CryptoDevil (@CryptoDevil) February 22, 2024

Zooko Wilcox explains the morphing meaning of cypherpunk.

He maintained that he was friends with other members of the cypherpunk community, like Hal Finney and Adam Back. He said Back hadn’t initially been a member of the IRC chat, though they did communicate via email.

Wilcox didn’t recall whether Satoshi emailed him directly about Bitcoin in 2008. He considered it more likely that he had seen the whitepaper when Satoshi sent it to the mailing list on October 31, 2008.

He also denied being ‘pals’ with Satoshi and initially regarded Bitcoin as a ‘scientific curiosity.’ He said only, “I assume so,” when Wright’s attorney mentioned that Satoshi announced the first version of the Bitcoin software in January 2009. Again, he denied receiving a bitcoin transaction from Satoshi Nakamoto saying, “I absolutely would remember that.”

When confronted with the fact that he didn’t get more involved with early Bitcoin, Zooko joked, “You underestimate my laziness and procrastination.”

New Satoshi emails

Most importantly for the general public, it’s because of this month’s COPA v. Craig Wright trial that the world will read new words from Satoshi for the first time. Indeed, Thursday was the first time that over 260 emails to or from Satoshi Nakamoto have ever been published.

Among the documents entered into the record are email exchanges between Satoshi and Adam Back, as well as Satoshi and Martti Malmi. The email exchanges indicate, for example, that Back had recommended that Satoshi look into Wei Dei’s work on B-money. (B-money was similar enough to Bitcoin that some people speculated that Dei might have been Satoshi. However, Satoshi clarified in a newly-published email as to never having read the B-money paper.)

The day ended with an announcement that Wright will retake the stand on Friday.

In the meantime, here’s another excerpt from a never-before-seen email written by Satoshi Nakamoto.

Proof of work is the only solution I’ve found to make peer-to-peer e-cash work without a trusted third party. Even if I wasn’t using it secondarily as a way to allocate the initial distribution of currency, PoW is fundamental to coordinating the network and preventing double-spending.

If it did grow to consume significant energy, I think it would still be less wasteful than the labour and resource intensive conventional banking activity it would replace. The cost would be an order of magnitude less than the billions in banking fees that pay for all those brick and mortar buildings, skyscrapers and junk mail credit card offers.

Satoshi Nakamoto

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