Last week, I instructed my lawyers to send a series of formal legal letters to a very specific list of people and organisations who were hosting the Bitcoin white paper on their websites.
This wasn’t done to limit the public availability of the white paper—quite the opposite. I am proud that when I first posted it online, in 2008, the system described within the white paper generated substantial excitement, which has only grown since. As far as I’m concerned, the more people who read the white paper—actually read it—the better. It would go a long way towards furthering people’s understanding of what Bitcoin is, and what it is not.
The Bitcoin system described in the white paper is not ambiguous. It is not open to interpretation. It is a peer-to-peer system of electronic cash. Cash means utility and practicality for daily use to make Internet commerce payments, including for “small casual transactions”, as noted on page 1 of the white paper. Cash means the network must be able to scale to support a high volume of transactions at high speeds and very low costs. For it to work, the underlying protocol must be set in stone, and not open to repeated revision by constantly tinkering developers who do not understand the system they may break. The system described in the white paper is clearly not one whose primary purpose and promotional message involves the storing of value or “digital gold” as a reserve asset.
And yet today, organisations use the Bitcoin name and the white paper itself to promote coins and products which they know to be inconsistent with the system as originally described. Such alternate coins and products not only fail to live up to the specification set out in the white paper, but still use the Bitcoin name and the white paper to promote themselves. As the author of the white paper, I feel compelled to exercise my legal rights and to ensure that it cannot be marketed in such a way—not just so that Bitcoin can live up to its potential, but so that people are not misled into supporting a different endeavour, having been led to believe that they were supporting Bitcoin.
In no other context would my acting appear as unusual or noteworthy. In fact, my failure to do so would at best be questionable and at worst a failure of my duty. Alas, such is the campaign of misinformation and obfuscation which has emerged over many years.
I do not want to be misunderstood: if a person would like to develop a system of digital gold or of slow, expensive online transacting, I would encourage them to pursue it, even though my opinion may be that such a project is ultimately doomed. Innovation is a great thing. It’s why the fixed nature of the protocol is such an important component of what Bitcoin is: if the protocol is subject to continuous change, how can meaningful innovation possibly take place using the system? When the Internet protocol was set in stone, we saw mass Internet adoption and use. Without the certainty that the protocol you are developing on is still going to be able to support your product a year or 10 years after its launch, innovators will simply choose to go elsewhere.
What I hoped to achieve by taking action against certain misusers of the white paper was to bring awareness to the Bitcoin system that is described within it, and to distinguish the system from others using the Bitcoin name. I believe the white paper speaks for itself. Whether something is ‘Bitcoin’ or not can be easily checked with reference to the document. If it fails to live up to the system of peer-to-peer electronic cash described therein, then it is not Bitcoin. Bitcoin SV is the Bitcoin system I described in the white paper. While much of the world may not see it yet, over time, people will; the technology speaks for itself. My life’s work has been about creating a micropayment system: one that brings electronic cash to the Internet in the form of small-value micro- and even nano-transactions.
I know that many people do not agree or do not understand why I have taken such course. To them I say, this is my personal battle, not that of the many companies and individuals in the Bitcoin ecosystem focusing on building an honest system, a system that is changing the world for the better.