At a convention on digital currency, rarely does an audience Q&A session include a question as incendiary as, “Why is this fraud allowed to speak at this conference?” But that’s how a discussion about Bitcoin ended up last year in Seoul.
The supposed fraud is Craig Wright, an Australian-born technologist who gained notoriety three years ago when he declared himself the inventor of Bitcoin. The provocateur is Vitalik Buterin, a baby-faced Russian-Canadian programmer who helped create another popular digital currency called Ether. No one disputes Buterin’s role in Ether; many reject Wright’s claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious genius behind Bitcoin.
Wright is a comic-book supervillain for some in the world of cryptocurrency. Buterin’s rant was applauded by a handful of people at the conference, including one of the panelists and a man on the sidelines wearing a vest and metallic fiber shirt. It had the feel of an impromptu live performance of a Twitter flame war. The whole thing lasted 90 seconds. Footage recorded from the crowd provided an amusing YouTube video and sparked a fresh round of tweets mocking Wright.
That appeared to be that, until a year later when Buterin received a letter from Wright’s attorney. The legal notice, dated April 12, said Wright intends to sue Buterin in the UK for defamation. Less than a week later, Wright filed suit with similar claims against a podcaster named Peter McCormack, seeking 100,000 pounds ($129,000) in damages. And on May 2, Wright’s lawyers served Roger Ver, an early Bitcoin investor, at a cryptocurrency meet-up in London.
Ver says by email he intends to defend himself in court. Buterin and McCormack didn’t respond to requests for comment, but all three have recently posted messages online calling Wright a fraud. In a blog post, Buterin painted the legal dispute as being about censorship, free speech and truth.
Wright has spent much of the last year with lawyers. He’s currently defending against claims in a US court…