C is a computer scientist based in England with an interest in cryptocurrencies. He claims to be behind the pseudonym ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’, who authored a 2008 academic white paper describing how Bitcoin operates and is regarded as the person (or persons) who created Bitcoin.
D is a citizen of Norway and is resident in Oslo. He tweets about various technology issues, including Bitcoin. He believes that C’s claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto is false and, on 17 March 2019, published the following tweet:
“The forensics to [C’s] first attempt to fraudulently ‘prove’ he is Satoshi. Enabled by @gavinandresen. Never forget. #CraigWrightIsAFraud.” (“the Tweet”)
On 29 March 2019, C sent a letter of claim in libel to D’s Twitter account (as his identity was, at that stage, unknown to C) seeking a number of remedies and claiming, among other things, that the Tweet carried the following false and defamatory meaning: “that C had fraudulently claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, that is to say the person or one of the people who developed Bitcoin”.
Upon receipt of this letter, D deleted his Twitter account. On 15 May 2019, C sent a further letter to D’s LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. This was also served by hand on D on 20 May 2019.
On 19 May 2019, D issued proceedings in Oslo seeking an exculpatory judgment regarding C’s allegation and a declaration of non-liability (or ‘negative declaratory relief’ (“NDR”)) on the basis that, applying Norwegian law and article 10 ECHR, the Tweet is not unlawful, as C’s claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto is incorrect. Alternatively, if the Tweet was libellous of C, D claimed that C suffered no loss because his reputation was damaged prior to D’s Tweet (“the Norwegian Claim”).
On 26 June 2019, C issued the present claim in England, seeking damages and an injunction in libel in relation to the Tweet, on the basis of the defamatory meaning stated in the letter of claim (“the English Claim”).
D acknowledged service of the claim and issued a Part 11 Application asking the English Court to decline jurisdiction pursuant to Article 27(2) of the Lugano Convention (lis pendens), on the grounds that the Oslo District Court was first seised and that the Norwegian Claim and the English Claim involved the same cause of action.
In an Order of 16 January 2020, Jay J granted D’s Part 11 application, with the effect that, pursuant to article 27(2), the English Court declined to exercise any jurisdiction it may have had to determine C’s claim, and set aside the Claim Form.
C appealed to the Court of Appeal.