In 2015, former N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller filed a defamation and copyright infringement lawsuit, prompted in part by his depiction in the rap biopic Straight Outta Compton. Years later, a third amended complaint has been dismissed by a judge in California, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Most of the initial lawsuit was thrown out in 2016 by District Judge Michael Fitzgerald. Heller died in 2016 after suffering a heart attack behind the wheel of his car, which resulted in an accident. Heller’s manager partially blamed his death on the way he was portrayed in the film, stating that it caused a great deal of stress on the music mogul. After his death, the amended complaint was filed against Universal and several other parties, alleging unjust enrichment due to the fact that Heller allegedly collaborated on the idea of an N.W.A. biopic.
Once again Fitzgerald sided with the defendants, agreeing that Heller’s estate had failed to prove he did in fact co-author the screenplay. He also found no evidence that Heller had a claim to ownership of the script and dismissed that claim. In the decision, the judge ruled:
“[E]ven assuming Plaintiff could establish that there was an objective manifestation of intent to be co-authors, the TAC lacks any allegation that Heller exercised control over the Screenplay,” writes Fitzgerald in the order, which is posted below. “Even assuming Plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to establish statutory standing, as Defendants highlight, Plaintiff’s claim for copyright infringement must be dismissed because Plaintiff’s allegations establish that Universal was licensed to use the Screenplay by alleged co-authors Savidge, Wenkus, and Xenon.”
Photo Credit: Mauricio Alvarado