UK Judge Awards Craig Wright £1 in Damages for McCormack Defamation Case
A London court dismissed a defamation claim from a self-proclaimed author of the bitcoin whitepaper.
In a ruling on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, a U.K. judged Australian computer scientist Craig Wright’s assertion that podcaster Peter McCormack had defamed him by calling him a fraud as false.
Wright had asserted that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous author of the bitcoin whitepaper, and had accused McCormack of libel in maintaining otherwise.
Wright had first served Particulars of Claim concerning several pieces of Twitter evidence in May 2019. Tweets by McCormack challenged Wright’s claim to be the natural person behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto and welcomed court proceedings.
Wright does an about-face on original testimony
In October 2019, Wright filed amendments to his original claims, citing reputational damage at the institutions he was studying due to McCormack’s tweets. McCormack then asked for proof of reputational damage, at which point Wright abandoned many critical aspects of his original claim.
His new claim focused on one aspect of his original witness statement: the rescission of accepted invitations to speak at conferences. Wright claimed these rescissions caused reputational damage, for which the judge could find no evidence.
Wright said that he did not remember whether he submitted a paper to a Montreal conference and could provide no account of how he came to claim otherwise in his first witness statement. He could only say that he received an informal invitation, which the judge rejected as too vague. The paper he submitted to an Istanbul conference was rejected beforehand, also contradicting claims made in his first witness statement.
Judge concedes reputational harm, but with a caveat
In addition, the timing of Wright’s third witness testimony, his unclear oral evidence to support his new trial, and his inability to prove the falsity of the original case counted against him.
The judge said that resolving the differences between the parties regarding the reach of the publicized tweets of information was not an appropriate use of judicial resources.
The judge acknowledged that Wright had suffered serious harm but said he could not, in good conscience, award anything other than “nominal damages” to Wright since the facts presented to support his case of serious harm were found to be false. He credited the case of “Joseph vs. Spiller for this premise and accordingly awarded Wright £1 in damages.
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