Three years after N.W.A manager Jerry Heller sued the producers of the Straight Outta Compton biopic for $110 million – and over two years after Heller died at the age of 75 – a judge has dismissed the copyright infringement suit.
Heller initially sued N.W.A members and biopic producers Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, as well as Universal and the Eazy-E estate, in October 2015 alleging that Straight Outta Compton used his name and likeness without permission and that he, as portrayed by Paul Giamatti in the film, was painted as a “bad guy” and “a sleazy manager who took advantage” of the gangsta rap group.
Heller also claimed that some elements of the plot – including a scene where Eazy-E is forced by Suge Knight to turn over his Death Row rights – were taken from his own Ruthless: A Memoir without permission.
“I’ve been in the business for six decades. I’ve probably represented almost every major artist in the world, either directly or peripherally, at one time or another. I have a certain reputation, and that reputation certainly doesn’t entail the things that they said about me. It was very hurtful,” Heller told Rolling Stone of the lawsuit. “I thought ‘No Vaseline‘ was hurtful. But actually, this was more hurtful. Look, I am what I am, but I’m not a thief. And I’m not scandalous. I did more for N.W.A … I mean, it was just incredible, the success that we had. So for them to call me a thief is just terrible. And I’m just not going to allow that.
Following Heller’s death in September 2016 after suffering a medical emergency that resulted in a car accident, his estate continued on with the lawsuit. However, a California district judge ruled Friday that Heller’s estate failed to support the late manager’s claims,
“Plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts to establish that Heller is a co-author of the Screenplay and the allegations establish that Universal was licensed to use the Screenplay,” Judge Michael Fitzgerald wrote in his decision. “As the parties previously agreed, the Motion is granted without leave to amend. The action is, at last, DISMISSED.”
At the time of Heller’s $110 million lawsuit, Straight Outta Compton was the highest-grossing music biopic of all time; that record has since been surpassed by the Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody.