Jerry Heller, former manager of iconic L.A. hip-hop group N.W.A., is in the midst of suing the film-makers of Straight Outta Compton for $110 million to prove that he’s one of the good guys. Heller’s primary complaint is that the film, chronicling the rise of the N.W.A in the 1990s and 2000s, falsely portrays him as a “bad guy.” In legal terms, he claims that whatever was true about him violated his publicity rights while whatever was untrue defamed him. Luckily for the defendants, which include NBCUniversal, Ice Cube, and Dre. Dre, Heller filed the suit in California, where there is an anti-SLAPP statute. This statute is in place to deter “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” taken against the exercise of free speech rights on matters of public interest. In reaction to defendants’ motion to strike the majority of Heller’s claims pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, earlier this week Heller had to argue to the court that his history of involvement with N.W.A. does not amount to a matter of public interest. In contrast, defendants argued that Heller is at least a “limited purpose public figure” due to his close relationship with high-profile celebrities, noting that Heller had even published a memoir of his own regarding his time with the N.W.A. Unfortunately for Heller, based on a recent 9th Circuit case where the court dismissed similar claims alleging The Hurt Locker had violated publicity rights and caused defamation, it looks like his fight to be the “good guy’ will end here.
Read more about the story here:
Jennifer Marr is an Entertainment and Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2018).