Nov 25, 2022

English Court rules that anonymous parties are not entitled to participate in legal proceedings

Pseudonymous Bitcoin Blogger “Cøbra” Ordered To Reveal Identity If Participating In Proceedings Brought By Dr Craig Wright

London 24 November 2022 – In a ground-breaking ruling, London’s High Court today ordered that “Cøbra”, the pseudonymous operator and publisher of the website, is not entitled to participate in the proceedings unless and until it identifies itself and its address.

In June 2021, the High Court granted ONTIER LLP ’s client and Bitcoin creator, Dr Craig Wright, default judgment in his copyright infringement action against the defendant, following the latter’s refusal to remove Dr. Wright’s Bitcoin White Paper from the website, where it had been published without Dr Wright’s consent.

In October 2021, Dr Wright – who authored the Bitcoin White Paper under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” –  commenced detailed assessment proceedings for his costs of the action.  “Cøbra” served Points of Dispute in response.  In July 2022, Dr Wright applied for an order that, unless the defendant identified themselves, they be debarred from participating in the detailed assessment proceedings, and Cøbra’s Points of Dispute be disregarded.

Dr Wright’s application was heard by Costs Judge Rowley on 6 October 2022, at which “Cøbra’s” legal representatives argued that there was no prohibition on a pseudonymous or anonymous party participating in costs proceedings.

The Court disagreed and, in finding for Dr Wright, held that the “[civil procedure] rules, taken as a whole, clearly expect a party to identify themselves at the outset of proceedings… it is plain that a party is expected to identify themselves when first actively involved in the proceedings.  That requirement is clear from the rules concerning the commencement of a claim and the filing of a response to that claim.”

The defendant has been granted permission to appeal, and otherwise has until 29 December 2022 within which to identify themselves, failing which Dr Wright will be entitled to apply for a Default Costs Certificate.

This is the first time that the English Court has been asked to determine whether a party has the right to make submissions at, or otherwise participate in, proceedings whilst maintaining their anonymity / pseudonymity to the Court and another party to the proceedings.

Dr Wright successfully argued that a party to proceedings should not be permitted to participate whilst refusing to identify themselves to the Court, as to do so would amount to an attack on the fundamental principal of open justice on which the English legal system is founded.  

Ontier UK comments:

“We welcome this important decision by the English Court, which reaffirms the sanctity of our open justice system.  Whilst there are some, limited, situations where a party can be anonymised to the public, there are no circumstances in which a party can participate in proceedings whilst maintaining their anonymity in the face of the Court.”  

Dr Wright was advised by Ontier Partner James Dixon. Shaman Kapoor of 39 Essex Chambers is instructed as Counsel.

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