The Bitcoin community is discussing the extent to which Bitcoin Core developers and maintainers should bear the symbolic burden of hosting their white paper, especially if it could cost unnecessarily time and money.
The question arose after Bitcoincore.org's bitcoin whitepaper, a canonical repository for bitcoin software and educational resources like Satoshi's 10-page thesis, was removed after nChain's chief scientist Craig Wright issued legal threats of copyright infringement .
A career-builder who claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto, Wright also helped spawn the bitcoin fork, Bitcoin Satoshi's Vision (BSV).
The Bitcoin whitepaper, entitled "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer E-Cash System", was published in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto under a public MIT license and is distributed in many forms worldwide. Wright has filed a copyright claim and that claim has been processed but is still open to appeal.
Whether or not his legal pressure has merit, however, isn't the problem: Wright is no stranger to lawsuits and has eagerly sued prominent Bitcoiners like British podcast Peter McCormack for contesting his claim as the inventor of Bitcoin.
The question is whether it would be best to entertain another of Wright's nerve-wracking (but expensive) lawsuits with evidence of strength, or whether it would be a problem to get around the problem completely by getting the White Paper, which is already in numerous nooks and crannies of the internet is in place, the wiser way for Bitcoincore.org to be removed is to follow.
While Bitcoincore.org maintainers have removed the white paper from the website, Bitcoin.org, the other website targeted by the lawsuit, has yet to remove the white paper.
In terms of practicality and principal, Bitcoin's open source community is, as always, at odds with itself.
No harm, no foul
For example, successful Bitcoin worker Gregory Maxwell is in the camp arguing that hosting the white paper on the Bitcoin Core website creates unnecessary legal and financial risk for the Bitcoin Core developers who maintain the website.
"It is currently not needed there: the Bitcoin whitepaper can already be found everywhere, it is on dozen of websites, is on the Bitcoin blockchain and is being published in 1,000 other places with awareness of this nonsense."
Maxwell points out that the fuss is about a digital paper, not even the bitcoin code itself chugging, completely untouched by the brouhaha.
"Wright might be able to abuse the legal system to remove a copy or even completely remove bitcoincore.org (maybe even bitcoin.org completely). And how would that affect Bitcoin? NONE. No effect at all. How would this affect the availability of the whitepaper? If anything, it would do it More available. But even if he managed to remove the whitepaper from every website – a total impossibility – what would that mean for Bitcoin? Still nothing."
He adds that through years of hearings and lawsuits costing millions of dollars, it would be better to give Bitcoin engineers the freedom to continue their vital work in maintaining Bitcoin. He cites McCormacks and other cases as evidence that Wright has a lot of cash on trials that go nowhere (and he even failed to pay the legal refund after losing those bouts, Maxwell says in the Post).
A question of principle and pride
Cobra, a pseudonymous developer who maintains the Bitcoin.org website, responded to Maxwell's post and contradicted Maxwell's conclusion that "this is not the right fight". Where Maxwell believes that dealing with Wright would show weakness, Cobra believes that submitting to demand is also weakness.
"Regarding Greg, I think that the Bitcoin Core project, submitting to inappropriate claims that there is a lack of merit, is a bad thing and does not inspire confidence in the resilience of the project to social and legal attack," Cobra told CoinDesk via direct messages.
Cobra told CoinDesk the developers are ready to go to court to address Wright's "nonsense" allegations if necessary.
I can't sue them all
Other Bitcoiners responded more sympathetically to a post from Wladimir van der Laan (@orionwl), the lead maintainer of Bitcoin Core.
"You made the right decision," replied Pierre Rochard, co-founder of the Nakamoto Institute and Bitcoin strategist at Kraken. "Thank you for your excellent leadership of the project."
Decentralization of Bitcoin Core
However, some suggested that van der Laan and other Bitcoin Core developers who would rather avoid legal disputes should give the Bitcoincore.org domain to someone willing to shoulder the brunt of a potential lawsuit.
In a blog post yesterday, the senior maintainer of Bitcoin Core made it clear that he believes this goes further than the debate over getting rid of the White Paper, which in itself is likely a struggle that needs wider support that one person could handle on their own .
In fact, even before this week's events, he had started thinking about "reducing his involvement" in the open source project.
The "responses on social media" to Bitcoincore.org's deletion of the white paper in the post "made it clear to me that people have strange expectations of me and what role I play in the Bitcoin Core project."
Van der Laan will step down as chairman of Bitcoin Core's weekly meetings. For the rest of the post, he suggests ways to further decentralize Bitcoin's development and software distribution.
“Some agreements that were acceptable for a small FOSS project no longer apply to a 600 billion dollar system. Market capitalization is known to be deceptive, but I'm not talking about specific numbers here, ”he writes.
"This is a serious project now and we have to take decentralization seriously."