Los Angeles, CA – Shortly before his death, former N.W.A manager Jerry Heller filed a $110 million lawsuit against Universal over the Straight Outta Compton biopic. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a California judge officially sent the case straight outta court on Friday (December 21).
Heller filed the suit in 2015, accusing the company of copyright infringement and defamation, among other claims. Heller reportedly believed the filmed portrayed him in a bad light. Although U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald tossed out most of the suit in 2016, Heller’s estate went after Universal again following Heller’s death in September 2016.
Subsequently, the estate filed a third amended complaint for copyright infringement against Universal and for unjust enrichment against S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus and Xenon Pictures. Heller claimed to have collaborated on a screenplay about N.W.A with Savidge, Wenkus and Xenon Pictures that formed the foundation of the movie.
On Friday, the defendants asked for the suit to be thrown out, explaining Heller’s estate didn’t provide sufficient proof he co-authored the screenplay. Evidently, Fitzgerald agreed and granted the motion without leave to amend, declaring, “The action is, at last, DISMISSED.”
“[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,” Fitzgerald wrote in the order. “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.”
Fitzgerald also said the estate failed to sufficiently allege Heller had any rights to the screenplay and therefore “the claim for unjust enrichment fails.”
Directed by F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton was released in August 2015 to critical acclaim. The film reeled in over $200 million dollars at the box office and was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Screenplay category.