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Judge Vacates Hearing in Ansel Adams Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - In the legal battle over negatives attributed to Ansel Adams, a federal judge has canceled a hearing, saying he can decide on the viability of the lawsuit without oral argument from attorneys. The Ansel Adams trust has sued collector Rick Norsigian, who claims he discovered a set of Ansel Adams negatives at a Sacramento garage sale. The trust planned to call a handwriting expert and a biographer at the initial hearing on Norsigian' motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Finding it "appropriate for decision without oral argument," U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White vacated a hearing scheduled for Friday, Nov. 12, on Norsigian's motion to dismiss the trademark case filed by Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

The trust sued Norsigian in August, alleging he was selling prints of 65 negatives on his website, advertising them as "Ansel Adams Lost Negatives."

The trust claims the negatives were taken by another photographer named Earl Brooks, whose niece has corroborated that claim.

In September, Norsigian and co-defendant PRS Media moved to dismiss or transfer the case, claiming improper venue.

The trust's attorneys have filed an answer to the motion, along with dozens of pages of exhibits they claim can prove Norsigian's trademark violation.

Norsigian replied.

In October, the trust filed a surreply, alleging that the reply from Norsigian contained factual and legal misstatements, particularly in his "mischaracterization" of his website as not subject to jurisdiction in Northern California, because it is not devoted to sales of the prints.

"The fact that some portions of defendants' website may not be used for online sales is irrelevant. Defendants fail to cite any case law to support their argument that a website must be entirely devoted to sales to render it 'interactive,'" the trust said in its reply.

"In the end, however, defendants' mischaracterization of their website is completely irrelevant to the question of whether venue is proper. Even if only a single page on the site were devoted to selling prints and posters online that would still be more than enough to ... make venue proper," the trust said.

The trust had planned to call a handwriting expert, a San Francisco art gallery owner and Adams' former assistant and biographer to testify against Norsigian at the hearing.

Judge White did not indicate when he will issue a ruling.

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