'Straight Outta Compton' Lawsuit Tossed Out of Court

Straight Outta Compton - H 2016

Late NWA manager Jerry Heller's lawsuit against Universal over the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton has been dismissed by a California federal judge.

The legal fight began in 2015 when Heller sued Universal for defamation and copyright infringement, among other claims. U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald in June 2016 tossed most of the suit. After Heller's death a few months later, his estate took over and in September of that year filed a third amended complaint for copyright infringement against Universal and for unjust enrichment against S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus and Xenon Pictures, with whom Heller claimed to have collaborated on a screenplay about NWA that formed the basis of the film.

Defendants asked the court to toss the suit, arguing Heller's estate failed to provide support for the claim that the former manager co-authored the screenplay. 

Fitzgerald on Friday sided with Universal and granted its motion without leave to amend, noting "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," 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."

Fitzgerald also found that the estate failed to sufficiently allege that Heller had any ownership in the screenplay and therefore the claim for unjust enrichment fails.