Report From The Court Room On Latest Prenda Hearing In Minnesota: Another Hearing, Another Mess

from the and-mark-lutz-has-disappeared dept

Lawyer Nancy Sims attended the latest Prenda hearing today in Minnesota and agreed to let us post her recap of what happened in the courtroom. We’ll have a more complete analysis of what happened later. For now, this is a “just the facts” coverage of the events of the day.

I attended the hearing today in what the presiding judge, Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel, characterized as “several iterations of” AF Holdings LLC v. Doe (case nos. 12-1445 – 12-1449). The cases at hand have all previously settled and been dismissed, but the court determined it has the inherent authority to investigate whether it has been the victim of a fraud.

The order for the hearing limited the discussion to whether the copyright assignment agreements for two films, “Popular Demand” and “Sexual Obsession,” attached as exhibits in the various AF Holdings v. Doe cases, are authentic. The discussion during the hearing ranged a bit further afield.

These are my own impressions of what happened, but I don’t guarantee their accuracy — I’m not a court reporter, and I’m not fully up on the details of all the Prenda/AF Holdings/etc cases. And I couldn’t always hear everything. I’ve tried to be fairly objective in reporting what I saw and heard, but to own up to my biases, I am an attorney whose interest in copyright sits solidly on the public interest side. I don’t represent or have any interests with respect to any of the folks present in court today, to the best of my knowledge. (How’s that for lawyer-talk.)

Individuals present in the courtroom today included:

  • Paul Hansmeier, lead attorney for plaintiff AF Holdings, LLC
  • John Steele, formerly a legal partner of Mr. Hansmeier
  • Brent Berry, northern MN real estate lawyer
  • Jason Flesher, northern MN resident
  • Alan Cooper, who alleges his signature was forged on documents related to AF Holdings
  • Paul Godfread, attorney for Mr. Cooper

And some audience members.

John Steele Takes The Stand

Mr. Hansmeier began the day by calling his first witness, Steele, and displaying to him on a document viewer the copyright assignment for “Sexual Obsession.” Mr. Steele authenticated the assignor’s signature as that of Ray Rogers, based on familiarity with Mr. Rogers signature from several instances of business, etc. Mr. Steele also testified that he believed the use of Mr. Cooper’s signature on this document was authorized, because Steele introduced Cooper to the owner/controlling member of AF Holdings.

At this point, and at a couple of later points, the judge asked what exhibit number the documents were that Hansmeier was displaying (since the document viewers don’t produce an ongoing copy.) Hansmeier apparently didn’t intend to offer the documents into evidence, but the court later entered the copyright assignments in question (originally filed as exhibits in cases 12-1445 – 1449) as exhibits 1 and 2 for this hearing.

Hansmeier elicited lengthy testimony from Steele as to his knowledge of Cooper’s involvement with AF Holdings, his involvement with helping Cooper to form a company (VPR, Inc) to market adult content, and about the nature of Steele and Cooper’s relationship over the years. The overview of this testimony is that Cooper was recommended to Steele in 2006 or so as a possible caretaker for his cabin in northern MN, that Cooper lived there subsequently rent-free in exchange for a limited amount of work around the property, that subsequent to Steele’s divorce they had hung out more, and that they had been “very good friends by 2010.” Steele also testified that he had helped Cooper set up VPR, Inc, that Steele had introduced Cooper to Mark Lutz, and heard Cooper’s end of phone calls with Lutz on at least two occasions, and that Cooper had gotten “a kick” out of being associated with the adult industry, and repeatedly joked with friends and others about coming to work for him in his porn company, at least as early as 2011.

Steele testified that he had closed his law firm, Steele Hansmeier, over a short period starting in November 2011, because “I was quite frankly surprised with the vitriol and nastiness of the pirates we were pursuing.” He mentioned a blog post that showed pictures of his house and small child, and included violent threats against the family. Steele appeared visibly upset during this part of his testimony. Steele continued his testimony to affirm that after closing the lawfirm, he decided to sell his cabin in July of 2012. At this point, the Judge himself intervened to ask what the point of this testimony was; Mr. Hansmeier said it was directed towards motive.

Steele then testified that Mr. Cooper had been angry and hostile once he knew the sale was going forward, and that Cooper had taken items from the property, caused property damage, and attacked or threatened people who came on the property. The judge again intervened, to direct the discussion toward an end point; Mr. Hansmeier then asked Steele about his knowledge of rumors, started by Mr. Cooper, that Steele had molested Cooper’s daughter.

Things then got refocused on the topic of the hearing. The copyright assignment for “Popular Demand” was shown to Steele, and he again authenticated Ray Rogers’s signature for the assignor, and stated that Steele himself had used this document to file registration documents with the Copyright Office. Then, focusing on the other signature, Steele testified that he did not know if Cooper had signed the documents himself, but spoke to his “understanding” that Cooper had authorized Lutz and his people to sign documents like this on his behalf.

Judge Noel then directed several questions to Steele about the documents in question, and Steele’s understanding that Cooper had authorized Lutz to sign on his behalf. Judge Noel elicited that this was based on hearing Cooper’s half of two phone conversations with Lutz. Noel also elicited that Steele does not actually know if Cooper signed those documents, but that as far as Steele knew, Cooper had had a position as a “helper” for AF Holdings. Steele testified that he did not know if Cooper was employed by AF — because Steele himself had no involvement with AF, other than them having been very briefly clients of the Steele Hansmeier firm. Finally, Noel questioned Steele as to whether he knew who signed the Cooper name on either of the exhibits, and Steele testified that he did not.

Jason Flesher’s testimony

Hansmeier called Jason Flesher to the stand, who testified that he had known both Steele and Cooper for 4-5 years. Hansmeier began questioning Flesher about the nature of Steele and Cooper’s relationship, but the judge redirected him, and he then focused his questioning on Flesher’s knowledge of Cooper’s involvement in AF holdings. Flesher testified that Cooper’s partner, Charity (last name not ever clearly established) had talked with him about her concern over Cooper’s adult industry involvement on cabin visits as early as 2011, but that he did not know anything further about Cooper’s invovlement in signing documents, or details of his involvements with any companies. The judge briefly questioned Flesher about his knowledge of the copyright assignment documents (none) or familiarity with Cooper’s signature (none), and Flesher was dismissed.

Brent Berry’s testimony

Hansmeier called Brent Berry to the stand, and began questioning him about the nature of Cooper and Steele’s relationship, Cooper’s behavior after Steele decided to sell the house, and so on. The judge intervened to focus again on the documents, eliciting that Berry had seen Cooper’s signature before, but wouldn’t recognize it on sight, and did not know if the signature on the documents was Cooper’s.

Alan Cooper takes the stand

Hansmeier then called Cooper to the stand. Hansmeier’s questions posed to Cooper were often spoken quite quickly, so in a number of instances, Cooper had to ask them to be restated. Cooper also fairly frequently didn’t respond directly to the questions, so this part of the recap is a bit more out of order.

Hansmeier’s initial line of questioning focused on Cooper’s claim that other AF Holdings documents had included forgeries. Cooper wasn’t quite sure why he was being questioned about other people’s signatures; “I’m concerned about my signature.” Finally, the judge directed some specific questions about Cooper’s knowledge about specific signatures related to the case, and Cooper responded that he did not have any specific evidence about forgeries of signatures for Mooney, Webber, or Salt Marsh. Godfread objected that this seemed to be litigating the motion pending in October, and this was sustained.

Hansmeier began a new line of questioning, about Cooper’s testimony in other courts as to his involvement with AF Holdings. Cooper acknowledged that he became aware that his signature was being used related to AF Holdings in late 2012. Cooper stated that Steele had told him at an earlier date that if anyone asked any questions, they were to be directed to Steele. Hansmeier cut off Cooper’s testimony on that point, and kept questioning him about other members of his community who might have made him aware of his involvement at an earlier date. Cooper testified that his father-in-law (an ex law-enforcement officer) had told him he needed to find out why Steele was telling him to forward any questions.

After this, Hansmeier’s questions shifted direction repeatedly. He raised several points apparently intended to discredit Cooper: about being paid for testimony (Cooper denied he is), having expenses covered for his trip to an LA hearing (Cooper affirmed flight and one night hotel were covered by EFF), lost jobs (Cooper denied), mental health diagnoses and medications (also denied), and whether Cooper had ever signed anything on behalf of Steele (some unclear discussion about DMV registrations.)

There was a confusing line of questioning about why Cooper thinks he’s being held out as CEO of AF Holdings. Cooper tried to look something up on his phone (and was directed by the judge to stop). Cooper basically insisted that he wasn’t the CEO of AF Holdings, and the judge eventually said that whatever was on the documents in evidence would have to be good enough. Hansmeier worked hard to get Cooper to testify “who told you that your name was being held out as CEO of AF Holdings” but Cooper just didn’t remember, and focused on his concerns about his signature being misused.

Another line of questioning focused on how Cooper had retained Godfread, and a text message he had received, which was his first alert as to his name being used in association with AF Holdings. Cooper testified that the text had come from a Kim Eckenrode, who is John Steele’s mother-in-law. Cooper also testified that he had been referred to Godfread via an attorney whose number Eckenrode had texted to him.

Cooper denied any specific memory of March 18, 2011 (which I believe is the date Steele testified he introduced Cooper to Lutz by phone.) Finally, Hansmeier asked Cooper why he believed Steele owned Prenda Law; Cooper said Steele told him that, but that he had never seen any documents to that effect.

The judge then questioned Cooper, establishing that he had no familiarity with AF Holdings prior to the text from Eckenrode, that Cooper had never worked for AF Holdings or AF Films (Steele had previously testified that he thought any mentions of AF Films were typos), that he’d never signed any documents on behalf of AF Holdings or Films, that the signatures on the copyright assignments in question are not his and that he does not know who signed them, that he did not authorize anyone to sign his name, and that he did not know these documents were being submitted to a court “with what purports to be your signature.”

Godfread then questioned his client; Cooper denied Steele approaching him in 2010 about getting involved in the porn industry. He also stated that he did not know about VPR, Inc before last year, nor had he agreed to be an officer or have any other position with that group, nor to authorize use of his signature for that venture. Cooper stated that he had never met Lutz, nor talked to Lutz on the phone, nor ever indirectly told someone to talk to Lutz on his behalf. Cooper said that he did not authorize use of his signature on any documents related to AF Holdings or AF Films.

Godfread introduced a copy of the text from Eckenrode, including an attached image of Cooper’s purported signature on a document. There was some discussion about the admissibility of this copy of the text, including questioning from the judge about how Godfread had gotten the text to the page (emailed to himself). It was entered in the record as Exhibit 3, “with all caveats about what it purports to be.” Godfread questioned Cooper basically as to whether the printout of the text was what Cooper had received from Eckenrode. The judge asked briefly if Cooper had ever received any money from AF Holdings or VPR, or been employed by AF (no to all.)

Hansmeier then questioned Cooper (or tried to) about Hansmeier’s own previous conversations with Cooper. Cooper expressed confusion about whether he’d met Paul Hansmeier or his brother Peter, and maintained that whichever brother had visited the cabin, Cooper had not been around much or talked much with him. Hansmeier brought up that he had stayed in Cooper’s own cabin, but Cooper said he’d stayed away during that visit because “I didn’t want to deal with you”. Hansmeier, apparently taken somewhat aback, said “I didn’t know that,” and allowed that line of questioning to drop.

Hansmeier tried to call Godfread to the stand, and Godfread objected. The judge conferred with his clerk for a bit, and questioned Hansmeier as to his intent in questioning Godfread (to establish whether AF Holdings had any knowledge of Cooper’s concerns prior to filing the copyright assignments with courts). Godfread reiterated no knowledge on those points. After a bit more conferring, Judge Noel directed the attorneys to Shelton v. American Motors, 805 F 2d 1323 as on point, and said they’d reconvene on that point after lunch.

Before lunch, Hansmeier brought Steele back to the stand to address the text message (over Godfread’s objections as to Steele’s lack of direct knowledge of the conversation.) Steele testified that his mother-in-law is very religious and was very concerned over his involvement with the adult industry, and had been active on Die Troll Die and other sites. He testified that he has no interest in Prenda Law, but that she had gotten over excited about “random guesswork from internet pirates.” Hansmeier also questioned Steele as to whether Cooper has any other litigation pending against Steele — he does, but Steele said “it defies logic” that an attorney would forge a signature when he could get anyone in the world to sign a document.

The judge questioned Steele about the text message, eliciting that he doesn’t know whether it was sent by his mother-in-law, but that it was consistent with the tone of “anonymous pirates on the internet.” He mentioned something about the Secretary of State of Illinois, and Judge Noel followed up to ask about that; Steele testified that the Secretary of State website would show that Prenda was created by Paul Duffy. There was some additional questioning about St Kitts and Nevis, and AF Holdings and Prenda, and that a lot of people incorporate there.

Where’s Mark Lutz?

We broke just before noon, to reconvene after lunch on the point of whether Godfread would testify. When we reconvened, Hansmeier, having read the case the judge suggested, recalled his request to have Godfread testify. And then things got really interesting.

Judge Noel referred to his order for this hearing including an order for Cooper to appear in person, and for an officer of the plaintiff “capable of testifying as to the authenticity” of the documents to also appear. He reviewed the witnesses who had appeared, and noted that we’d heard nothing from AF Holdings — though he mentioned that he was “not sure what Steele’s role” was in all this other than being a former partner of Hansmeier… “So,” he said, “Where’s AF Holdings?”

Hansmeier said that Lutz was planning to come, and is the sole officer of AF Holdings, and did make it to an earlier conference in this case in person, but that he wasn’t present today, and that Mr. Hansmeier hadn’t been able to reach him by phone or email. He voluntarily elaborated that Steele and Lutz had been booked on the same flight from Miami, that Steele had gone to Lutz’s apartment to meet him (because Steele had Lutz’s boarding pass), but found him not home. Steele had then, according to Hansmeier, driven around Miami looking for Lutz, and even encountered some of Lutz’s friends who said Lutz had told them the night before that he had to make an early night of it because he was traveling to this court in the morning. Hansmeier offered the boarding pass as proof that Lutz had intended to come. (Steele was not present in the courtroom after lunch.)

Godfread suggested that Lutz has repeatedly failed to appear at evidentiary hearings related to AF Holdings cases. Hansmeier responded by stating that Lutz hadn’t been able to attend one hearing because he’d been detained by “federal agents” in an airport (the court requested clarification on this point, but all Hansmeier had was that; he stated that Lutz had asked to file further details of that detention, in that case, under seal because the detention was embarrassing.) Hansmeier finally stated that Lutz has appeared, before Judge Snow in Arizona, on closely related points.

Judge Noel took this all in, gave parties until close of business tomorrow to file all declarations, and said he’d issue an order “in due course.” The court recessed just about ten minutes after convening for the afternoon.

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Comments on “Report From The Court Room On Latest Prenda Hearing In Minnesota: Another Hearing, Another Mess”

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out_of_the_blue says:


Another wall of text by yet another lawyer with nothing better to do.

It’s a mania for gloating over the fall of these particular lawyers, and is unique to them; any interest in the case for non-lawyers is long since forgotten. The site now has little but NSA and inside lawyering.

ZOMG! Yet another item on Prenda Law! A staple in the soporific “At The Bench” series. Mike sez (short version): “Wow. Wow. Wow. … The story is gripping.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That is the question, indeed.

Perhaps it can only be answered by the very industries who have a vested interested in the status quo being maintained. Broken copyright and patent laws that favor large corporations and lawyers, not the people. Broken and unconstitutional surveillance laws that take away that liberty and freedom of the people. Corrupt governments indebted to corrupt corporations who lobby heavily to ensure that these things and others remain in place.

Surely they can afford to pay people to come to sites like this one that discuss these and many other issues but not in the manner of the mainstream media which are nothing more than glorified lapdogs of government and corporations. They pay their sock puppets to try to steer the conversation away from the truth or to disrupt the conversation outright so that the people remain unaware of what is going on.

Sure, this all sounds very conspiratorial. But, this practice is real and entities that have hundreds of millions or billions of dollars on the line can afford a few sock puppets to steer the conversation in a direction more favorable to them.

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:


It is getting increasingly more annoying every time I click on the comments of a thread after I see there’s 50-60 comments thinking I’m hopping into an interesting substantive discussion, and 40 of them are responses to some of his nonsense. I admit he’s entertaining sometimes and has even been known to actually contribute to a discussion with something insightful on more than one occasion, but this is starting to get a bit ridiculous. Case in point… as I’m typing this is the longest thread of comments on this posting and it is debating why he’s a troll and has nothing to do with the actual post about the trial proceedings.

So… that being said… Nancy, thanks for the coverage. Pretenda never fails to entertain with their incompetent trial skills. I can’t fathom how they were ever licensed to practice law in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Something caught my eye...

I must point out this one thing. Given that she is quite reliable in expressing the generalized version of testimony…the following caught my eye.

Mr. Steele also testified that he believed the use of Mr. Cooper’s signature on this document was authorized, because Steele introduced Cooper to the owner/controlling member of AF Holdings.

Now I do admittedly have Asperger Syndrome on the Autism Spectrum, so as such my mind, like most judges in a court room, take plain language very very seriously. The above statement implies to me that Steele simply thought that Cooper’s signature was Authorized simply for just meeting a person. Since this is an accurate assessment to Steele’s testimony on the matter, this all seems rather ominous to me about Steele. No lawyer in their sound mind could and should ever consider that simply introducing someone to another person as a means of authorizing the use of that person’s signature. That’s neither legally binding, nor will it ever be.

Scote (profile) says:

Re: Something caught my eye...

IIRC, Steele claimed to have heard Cooper’s side of a phone conversation where Cooper authorized Lutz to sign for him. Not sure why that hearsay was allowed as I don’t know the rules of hearsay. I also don’t know why Steele wasn’t cross examined. He claimed to have no involvement with Prenda – yet he also owns the domain, according to the registration info. Steele also pretended to be Alan Cooper on the phone to GoDaddy. Does he also claim Cooper authorized that?

arachne (profile) says:

Re: Re: Something caught my eye...

Steele could testify to what he heard directly (Cooper’s side of the conversation– direct experience. Heresay would be if Steele testified to Cooper telling him what Lutz (?) said in Lutz’s side of the conversation that Steele did not hear– unless it falls under the exceptions and exemptions to the rule against heresay.

Scote (profile) says:

Re: the mother in law?!

The troll whining seems a bit desperate, kind of like “No! No! Do not read this post! Nothing to see here. There is nothing bad about copyright trolls, or Prenda Law or John Steele or Paul Hansmeier! Nothing! Do you hear me!?! Nothing!

It’s as if the troll posts are all by Steele and Hansmeier, or maybe from Mark “The Dog Ate My ID” Lutz, trying to kill the media coverage of their shenanigans.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: the mother in law?!

Nah, look through past articles over the years. If there’s a subject being covered that even these liars can’t defend by ignoring facts, they whine that the site’s covering the stories in the first place. Be it Aaron Swartz, NSA surveillance or SOPA, they get angry and confused when they can’t spin a story to attack the other side, yet they still can’t stop typing or – god forbid – go elsewhere to a site that does write about subjects that interest them.

Hey, at least the troll we have in this thread isn’t trying to imitate farm animals, even if his accusations of “having nothing better to do” are increasingly hilarious.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Steele then testified that Mr. Cooper had been angry and hostile once he knew the sale was going forward, and that Cooper had taken items from the property, caused property damage, and attacked or threatened people who came on the property.

Strange, then, that either 1) the police were never contacted about any of it, or 2) Steele didn’t bother to get copies of any of the police reports and present them to the court.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

More than just him actually, if Steele is going to claim that Cooper attacked and/or threatened not only him, but visitors as well, and none of them contacted the police about it, it suggests two possibilities:

A) Steele is lying, and this is just a character assassination attempt.

B) The ‘threats/attacks’ were so minor that no one took them seriously enough to call for the police to be involved.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am more concerned about the attack on the blogs.
The tearful claim that he stopped practicing because he saw a picture of his home, child and gun and people asking what caliber to use to kill them.
This was so shattering to him he stopped practicing law…
but never contacted the police
never named where this allegedly happened
never mentioned it until in a courtroom where he told a story that makes it appear that Hansy lied in his deposition

I’m getting REAL tired of being portrayed as a terrorist by people who have violated the law, ethics, morality who are still given days in court to waste everyones time.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

*Just realized that last bit was worded rather poorly.

What I meant by that is that Steele and co are so panicked by the actions of the legion vast that they’ve angered, that they are throwing out accusations left and right, desperately trying to portray those opposing them as horrid people, individuals that would stop at nothing to strike at the ‘valiant defenders of copyright’, rather than those rightly infuriated by the parasites that have been going around ruining lives without a care in the world.

Scote (profile) says:

Seems pretty clear: Cooper testimony unrebutted

The hearing seems pretty clear when you get down to the bare testimony: Cooper testified under oath that he did not sign the copyright document and nobody testified under oath that he did, and there is no documentation that Cooper was an officer or representative of AF Holdings.

IANAL. Am I missing anything?

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting. So again Lutz is mysteriously absent from a hearing that the Prenda folk insist he was planning on attending, but they can’t reach him for some reason.

The excuse can’t be the same as last time, because Steele had his boarding pass and was supposed to pick him up, so no federal agents detaining him at the airport. Steele even claims to have bumped into friends of Lutz who said Lutz was turning in early to prepare for travel.

Yet strangely Prenda is unconcerned that Lutz has gone missing.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Once again the denials coming from Team Prenda are worth a laugh. Is it just me or did anyone else notice the absence of Lutz when he was required to appear.

Every time Lutz is required to appear there is always some reason Lutz wasn’t there. This is like the 3rd or 4 th time now where Lutz has failed to appear.

Now I am not sure of this, but I don’t recall Lutz having appeared before Judge Snow, I believe at one time he was supposed to appear, but it’s my belief that Lutz had not done so.

I have said this before that Lutz will not appear at any of these upcoming hearings, not after the fiasco in Florida in the Sunlust case.

Lutz just won’t survive questioning with out Steele whispering answers in his ear. I love how Steele who is supposedly retired seems to know so much about AF Holdings and copyrights assignments and who said what.

For someone with no involvement with Prenda Law and AF Holdings Steele sure knows a lot, I also recall Stelle said he was a consultant to AF Holdings, so why did Steele not say that in his testimony.

Steele said before that he was a consultant to AF Holdings and he is paid for that. So why did Steele not testify to that in court, or is John’s memory lapsing.

I still can’t figure out why Flesher was at this hearing when he was questioned by the Judge much like Mark Lutz in the Florida case he was there to testify about what he doesn’t know and he gets tossed as a witness, much like Lutz did as a corporate representative of Sunlust(the irony is too funny on that point)

It’s the same with Berry’s testimony another person who doesn’t know anything. Great witnesses there John…lol.

So why didn’t this Ray Rogers take the stand to testify about his signatures on the copyright assignments? As a matter of fact why would Ray Rogers sign copyright assignments when he didn’t work for AF Holdings?

Hansmeier previously said in the deposition in California by Pietz and Ranallo that Mark Lutz was the Sole employee at AF Holdings and that he take no salary or wage. So why is Rogers signing copyright assignments when he has nothing to do with AF Holdings, and why would he be signing these and then giving them to Steele who said he didn’t know anything about the AF Holdings.

I can’t wait to hear John explain why VPR International is registered to his sisters address, and why there is a trust named Salt Marsh and his sisters boyfriend is named Anthony Saltmarsh.

I also loved the fact that Hansmeier brought the documents to court to show on a slide but didn’t want them in as an exhibit but the Judge entered them in if they were going to be part of Hansmeier’s case….Oops!

You can bet those documents are going to get used in other cases or brought to the attention of other Judges where Prenda is having problems.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

At this point I think it’s a safe bet that the only way Lutz will be able to make a court appearance is in handcuffs, after one of these judges gets tired of yet another excuse as to why the person who has been portrayed as the central figure in AF Holdings just can’t seem to find his way to the court, and a bench warrant is placed to ‘help’ him in finding his way.

Bryan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So why didn’t this Ray Rogers take the stand to testify about his signatures on the copyright assignments? As a matter of fact why would Ray Rogers sign copyright assignments when he didn’t work for AF Holdings?

Ray Rogers is the assignor, or representative of the assignor, who sold the copyright to AF Holdings. In all of the coverage, I have never seen where anyone disputed that Ray Rogers actually did sign the assignment of the copyright, just that no one ever signed it as the assignee from AF Holdings in his or her real name (Alan Cooper, Salt March, etc.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Authorized to Sign

If you are going to authorize someone to sign things for you, isn’t that authorization supposed to be in writing, so there is record of such authorization? Not just an unverifiable phone call?

And don’t authorized agents usually sign with their own name so it is clear that the agent made the call rather than whoever that agent represents being involved personally?

DB (profile) says:

They would have Raymond Rogers on the stand, except that it would blow holes in other parts of their story.

It’s pretty much undisputed that Rogers signed the assignment. Normally they would put him on the stand to at least get in a few minutes of truthful, supported testimony.

But that would open Rogers up to the question of how the copyright was acquired and paid for. If AF paid, it raises the question of where the money came from and who authorized it. (And would directly contradict Hansmeier’s deposition statement.) If the movies were nearly worthless (as seems likely), what was the motivation for the transfer and where the claimed damages for each instance so high?

My guess is that Steele provided legal services and forgave the bill in exchange for the copyright to a few worthless movies. (Apparently targeted movies like this make their money in the first few weeks after release, as fans of the specific actress buy copies. There are almost no subsequent sales.) If it came out in testimony that Steele and Hansmeier did such a deal, the courts would be competing with the IRS for a pound of flesh.

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