John Steele Tries To Get Out Of Alan Cooper's Lawsuit By Arguing That The Use Of 'Alan Cooper' Was 'Coincidental'
from the damn dept
John Steele just can’t stop digging. The alleged (and confirmed by multiple courts) mastermind behind Prenda Law’s copyright (and CFAA) trolling efforts is likely headed for a world of trouble after Brett Gibbs, a lawyer who used to work for him, finally coughed up incredibly compelling evidence that Steele (and partner Paul Hansmeier) were the people behind Prenda Law — despite multiple denials of that claim. However, as that was coming out, it appears Steele was busy trying to get himself out of the lawsuit that Alan Cooper brought many months ago, concerning Steele allegedly signing Cooper’s name on various legal documents. Steele has now asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
For many months, there’s been all sorts of bluster from Steele (and others on Team Prenda) suggesting that Cooper’s claims were totally bogus and that “the truth will come out” at some point. In other cases, there have been attacks on Cooper’s credibility, arguing that he had mental problems and was on medication, that he’d acted in unstable ways. Furthermore, in a variety of cases, Steele argued, often in conflicting ways, that Cooper either really had signed the documents or that he’d somehow given Mark Lutz permission to sign the documents for him. The contradictions made his claims not particularly credible in the first place.
So, now that he’s actually filing to dismiss the lawsuit, does he argue that Cooper actually signed the documents? Or that he knew all about the documents even if someone else signed them? No. Instead, he basically argues that Alan Cooper is a very common name and maybe it’s coincidental that Cooper’s name was on the documents — and thus, there has been no “invasion of privacy.” Yes, it’s hard to believe, after everything else claimed that this is Steele’s strategy, but as we’ve seen before, he often seems to think he can talk his way out of everything, even if his other statements totally contradict what he now claims. The filing is really quite incredible.
First, Steele attempts to misrepresent Minnesota common law concerning invasion of privacy. First, he points out that the law is “limited” such that it doesn’t apply to incidental mentions of someone:
The value of the plaintiffs name is not appropriated by mere mention of it, or by reference to it in connection with legitimate mention of his public activities; nor is the value of his likeness appropriated when it is published for purposes other than taking advantage of his reputation, prestige, or other value associated with him, for purposes of publicity. No one has the right to object merely because his name or his appearance is brought before the public, since neither is in any way a private matter and both are open to public observation. It is only when the publicity is given for the purpose of appropriating to the defendant’s benefit the commercial or other values associated with the name or the likeness that the right of privacy is invaded.
Of course, all of that is sensible law. It’s not an invasion of privacy to merely mention someone’s name or to talk about their public activities. But that’s not what is alleged to have happened here. The accusation is that Steele forged Cooper’s signature on legal documents. To pretend that’s the equivalent of a mere mentioning of Cooper is ridiculous. From there, Steele argues that the signature is just a “coincidental” signature of someone named Alan Cooper, and since it might not even be this Cooper, it doesn’t rely on his “persona,” but is rather “a coincidental use of the same name.”
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants used the name “Alan Cooper” without his express permission, but he does not allege that Defendants’ use of the name leveraged Plaintiff’s “reputation, prestige, social or commercial standing, public interest or other values of the plaintiff’s name or likeness.” Indeed, Plaintiff’s own allegations express uncertainty over whether he is even the “Alan Cooper” referenced in the allegedly-offending documents. (See Compl. 91 41) (“Defendants have never identified another person by the name of Alan Cooper who could plausibly have signed the documents shown as Exhibit A or Exhibit B.”) The reason why Plaintiff is uncertain whether he is the “Alan Cooper” referenced in Plaintiff’s documents is the very same reason why his claim must fail: nothing in the documents containing the name “Alan Cooper” is linked to or otherwise leverages the qualities of Plaintiff’s persona. Plaintiff does not allege otherwise. Plaintiff has no exclusive right to the use of the generic name “Alan Cooper.” Otherwise, any person who signed a document, “Alan Cooper”–that is, even someone whose legal name was Alan Cooper–could be liable for invading Plaintiff’s privacy. The Court should dismiss Plaintiff’s Count I with prejudice.
The chutzpah it takes to file something like that with the court is rather stunning. He’s not denying that he signed Alan Cooper’s name. He’s just arguing that it’s not a violation of Alan Cooper’s privacy because Alan Cooper is a common name. That takes balls. Of course, if it really was just some other Alan Cooper, then that’s got to come back to bite Steele as well. After all, in the Navasca deposition by Paul Hansmeier, Hansmeier stated that Steele had been the one who got Alan Cooper’s signature. And, when Judge Wright ordered “the real Alan Cooper” to appear in his court room, the only one who showed was the one who’s now suing Steele. At no point has Steele previously indicated that there was another Alan Cooper, yet now he’s trying to get out of this case by shrugging it off and saying it could be any Alan Cooper? Damn. He really does seem to think that everyone else in the world is dumb.
Steele further attacks Cooper’s other claims by arguing that it couldn’t be a deceptive trade practice because Cooper doesn’t show what trade his name was involved in and because Cooper fails to show who was deceived. So, argument number two from Steele: signing someone else’s name to a legal document in a court isn’t deceptive if no one can be shown to be deceived.
Steele then attacks Cooper’s claims that “Prenda Law, Inc., is a mere instrumentality of Steele.” And that “Prenda Law, Inc.’s existence was a mere facade for individual dealings of Steele.” Steele argues that since there is no allegation that supports those conclusions, the claims must be dismissed. I’m guessing he wrote this part prior to Brett Gibbs’ filing, because I imagine that allegation supporting those conclusions rather strongly, complete with spreadsheet evidence, will show up rather quickly. Steele further argues that Cooper failed to show any documents where Steele represented that Alan Cooper was an officer of AF Holdings or Ingenuity 13. Apparently, the signed copyright assignments have completely slipped his mind?
At this point, this particular legal case is more of a sideshow to the other ones (along with the rapidly increasing probability that Steele and Hansmeier may soon have to deal with criminal investigations). But it’s yet another glimpse into the mind of John Steele, where his statements indicate, yet again, that if he just keeps talking, maybe he’ll talk himself out of the corner he’s clearly been backed into.