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.

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Companies: af holdings, ingenuity 13, prenda, prenda law

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Comments on “John Steele Tries To Get Out Of Alan Cooper's Lawsuit By Arguing That The Use Of 'Alan Cooper' Was 'Coincidental'”

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MPHinPgh (profile) says:

Brass Balls

My Dearest John Steele, you certainly do have balls the size of churchbells. Too bad you have no brain cells to accompany them. I’m no lawyer, but even I know that any judge reading your trash is going to spit his coffee all over his desk trying not to laugh. Then he’ll likely have to re-read it a time or two, just to make sure he’s following your twisted logic.

I’ll save you the suspense. Motion DENIED. You really do need to just come clean and get it all over with. Too bad your arrogance won’t let you do that.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Brass Balls

speaking of ‘coming clean’, these guys act like they are coked out of their skulls…

that would be about the only ‘explanation’ which would make perverted sense: get backed into a corner with no conceivable exit ? ? ?
snort a fat line and make up some insane shit that sounds great under the influence…

yeah, that’s the ticket ! ! !

scum lawyers are scum…

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:


Ken White over at Popehat as very good sysopsis of all of the Prenda cases this morning (it’s a long post). If you are familiar with the whole line, check out the last few paragraphs where Ken estimates the timing of DOJ and IRS potential cases.

S. T. Stone says:

So, how much longer do we have to wait to see these jerkoffs flee the country?

You can?t tell me it won?t happen. They?ve lost pretty much every motion and legal proceeding in the past year; their options for getting out from under their own weight have fallen to flight or death, and I don?t think any of those chumps have the balls to eat a gun.

Karl (profile) says:

He has a point, actually

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?

Personally, I think he has a point.

“Your Honor, I was not forging this Alan Cooper’s name. It just happens to be a very nice name. It’s the one I use to forge all my documents!”

Totally believable.

David says:

Re: He has a point, actually

Well, yes. And this may even get this particular case dismissed. However, pleading this only makes sense in an overall strategy when it involves leaving the country after the end of this lawsuit but before enough related lawsuits move to the penalty phase to let the net cashflow become negative, and most particularly before the IRS gets him arrested.

Or too many people wonder about the disappearance of Mark Lutz. Frankly, if they don’t pull Steele’s passport soon, I?doubt they’ll have much of an opportunity.

Anonymous Coward says:

You know I can see a way in which his argument sorta makes sense…but it doesnt fit this case. Its about identity vs. name.
If I filed court papers and signed it with the name John Smith. Could every John Smith sue me. If there is no link and no harm from filing a paper with a forged name that would come to any John Smith, then I don’t see how anyone named John Smith could sue me.
Now in this case its clear that Steele was forging not just the name but the identity of the Allen Cooper. If I remember correct Allens address was used at some point. If this all comes down to just a name on a court paper I don’t see Allen Cooper can say he was harmed by Steele using his name. However, I belive there is more than just the court document involved in the lawsuit and Steele should certainly pay for it.
All that said Steele should also get in trouble for forging a name on a court document among many other things that I hope he spends time in jail for.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually the harm was coming. What most likely was supposed to happen was when the house of cards fell:
Your honor our client lied to us, let us out of this.
People start searching for Allan Cooper and many roads point to a man who worked as a caretaker.
Then we play a game trying to get someone who knew nothing to tell us the truth about it.
They waste a bunch of time shredding his life.
If sharkMP4 had been discovered then, fingers would have pointed to the “copyright holder” to have been the one behind it.
Meanwhile Peg Leg Productions owns more content that is being “stolen” on the internet and has chosen SteHanDuf Law to represent them in court.

Anonymous Coward says:

It begins to look like end game is within sight. The point at which the judges dealing with all this each decide on their own they’ve had enough and have figured out what is really going on.

When that happens I suspect that the mess a dump truck does when it dumps it’s load will look pretty in comparison. This has went on a long time but I would imagine it is beginning to be quite constrictive in some people’s personal space. It’s not likely to get better as time goes on in my opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Plaintiff has no exclusive right to the use of the generic name ‘Alan Cooper.'”

Um, what?!??

That’s his real, actual name. He does have an exclusive right to use his real, actual name to identify himself.

I can’t wrap my head around these bizarre arguments. It seems like he is just randomly writing things that have no application to the case.

horse with no name says:

Re: Re:

“Who’s banking on horse with no name claiming that the judge involved in this one is also coincidentally deranged, overstepping and an enemy of IP law?”

Nice flame my trolling friend, but no. This judge appears to be playing well within the parameters of judicial power, and is not being abusive towards any party in the situation.

For the record, I will repeat what I have posted in the past. I think Prenda law are idiots, on the same scale as Tenenbaum, as they are screwing things up for everyone else.

That being said, the judge that dragged people in front out of state to give them a “judicial spanking” (imagine that one if you have problems sleeping) in my mind went to either the very edge of his powers or beyond, and bordered on being abusive.

Due process means due process for everyone, not just the people you like. Summoning people to stand in front of the court with no way to prepare and no way to defend themselves pretty much kills that, don’t you think?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Might want to re-think that argument

If he’s going to argue that the name ‘just so happens’ to match that of someone he knew, but is not in fact that particular Cooper, then that means that the documents were entirely forgeries, as they were signed by a person that does not exist, because as far as I know Prenda have done everything in their power to avoid identifying just which ‘Cooper’ they mean, which would make plenty of sense if it was in fact the Cooper that brought the suit of identity theft, but no sense at all if it wasn’t, unless the mystery ‘Cooper’ didn’t exist in the first place.

So let’s see, we’d have fraudulent copyright assignments, forging a signature on a legal document, signed by a person who didn’t exist, lawsuits brought about over the fraudulent copyrights, perjury in multiple courts over the claims that the copyright was legitimate and had been assigned legally… you know what, I think I actually hope his argument here is accepted, as it seems it would make things a whole lot worse for him in the long term.

Mike (profile) says:

Motion to dismiss

What the techdirt author fails to note for readers is that in the context of a motion to dismiss in federal court, the court accepts all of the facts of the complaint as true and then decides whether, given all those facts, the plaintiff would have a case. A defendant can’t successfully argue that a given fact alleged in the complaint is not true (with rare exception). A motion to dismiss is sort of a threshold test: Given everything that Plaintiff alleges, do we even have a controversy that needs to proceed to discovery and trial?

So Steele’s arguments sound funny because it would be counterproductive for him to argue that he didn’t do x or y when the complaint alleges x or y. Instead, as with most motions to dismiss, he is left to argue that what the complaint alleges is not even a cause of action.

DannyB (profile) says:


I’m sure the MPAA would have a hissy fit, but here goes . . .

All characters and facts presented by Team Prenda are ficticious. Any similarity to actual events or persons, either living or dead, is unintentional and purely coincidental.

Can’t Team Prenda just put such a footnote into their court filings? Wouldn’t that be enough to save them? It would amuse the judges, thus making them like Team Prenda.

Lurker Keith says:

Re: Coincidental

The problem w/ that would be they would be admitting to lying to the court.

If you tell a judge something, then later tell them something else that contradicts that (such as saying “all of the preceding was fictitious/ untrue”), that’s what we call perjury.

per?ju?ry [pur-juh-ree]

noun, plural per?ju?ries. Law.
the willful giving of false testimony under oath or affirmation, before a competent tribunal, upon a point material to a legal inquiry.

Unfortunately, Perjury is SUPPOSED to be punished, but it gets caught/ punished so rarely, I’m not sure what the punishment is supposed to be (I would assume a fine & some jail time).

David says:

Re: Re: Coincidental

Perjury de facto is no longer considered a crime. The Attorney General Eric Holder himself made generous use of it when testifying before congress, has led an investigation of his perjury and let himself off without as much as a plea deal. He has not even bothered starting an investigation for the recent numerous cases of perjury of NSA and CIA officials.

It is however conceivable that some judges have not yet caught up with the Department of Justice and established case unlaw.

BoxersOrCaseBriefs says:

Motion to Dismiss

@Mike is right on the motion to dismiss aspect of it. Steele isn’t arguing the merits of the case. Rather, he’s arguing over whether the complaint filed by Cooper states a valid cause of action. This statement by Mr. Masnick is pretty telling:

“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’s argument has nothing to do with whether anything was deceptive. It’s a technical argument that the complaint fails to plead what is presumably an essential element of a cause of action for Deceptive Trade Practices: that someone was actually deceived. While I’m not familiar with Minnesota law, you have the same requirement in virtually any fraud or misrepresentation cause of action: the plaintiff needs to plead and ultimately prove that someone was deceived and that they reasonably relied upon the false representation.

Mr. Masnick, I appreciate your frequent coverage of the ongoing Prenda saga, but this isn’t the first time you’ve crossed over from amusingly snarky coverage into clear misunderstanding of the law and the pleadings. You might want to run some of the legal analysis by a lawyer before posting these critiques.

SKP says:

CraigsList Ad Nationwide

Desparately Seeking Alan Cooper(s)

If your Name is Alan Cooper we at (formerly) Prenda Law want to offer You and Your Entire Family an All Expense Paid Trip to Hazy Los Angeles (and possibly other venues around the country)

Just FAX your Personally Identifiable Information (please include any IP Addresses you may have used in the last 2 years) to (etc/etc/ad nauseum)

IANAC! (I am not a Crook)

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