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Paramount sued over Top Gun sequel by family of author of article that inspired original movie

Paramount sued over ‘Top Gun: Maverick’: Family of author who wrote an article that inspired original movie accuses makers of ‘thumping its nose’ at copyright for ‘derivative’ sequel

  • The family of Ehud Yonay say that Paramount’s rights to the Top Gun story ended in 2020, 35 years after they bought them for the original film
  • The original 1986 Top Gun film was based on a 1983 article written by Yonay, who died in 2012
  • Yonay’s family say that the studio ignored their notices that they had reclaimed the story’s copyright, and distributed the film without involving them
  • The new film was released in May and has generated a staggering $291 million in North America and $548.6 million globally, and the Yonays are seeking damages
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The family of the author whose article inspired the original 1986 Top Gun movie sued Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement over this year’s blockbuster sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.

The family of Ehud Yonay, who died in 2012, alleged that Paramount failed to reacquire the rights to the late-author’s original 1983 article, Top Guns, before releasing what a complaint described as a ‘derivative’ sequel this year.

Shosh Yonay and Yuval Yonay, who live in Israel and are Ehud’s widow and son, said Paramount deliberately ignored that the copyright reverted to them in January 2020, ‘thumbing its nose’ at federal copyright law.

The complaint comes as Top Gun: Maverick has soared though the box office, amassing over half a billon dollars in its first 10 days.

Yonay's family say that Paramount's rights to the Top Gun story expired in 2020, but that the studio released a sequel (pictured above) using elements of the original story in 2022 anyways

Yonay’s family say that Paramount’s rights to the Top Gun story expired in 2020, but that the studio released a sequel (pictured above) using elements of the original story in 2022 anyways

The cover page of the 1983 article Top Guns, by Ehud Yonay, which inspired the original 1986 Top Gun film

The cover page of the 1983 article Top Guns, by Ehud Yonay, which inspired the original 1986 Top Gun film

Top Gun, a beloved and campy 1986 Tom Cruise film about Navy fighter pilots in an elite flight school, was based on a 1983 article in California magazine about Navy fighter pilots at a base in San Diego.

Paramount bought exclusive rights to the story that lasted 35 years, which the Yonays say terminated in 2020. The family began reclaiming the copyright to original story in 2018, according to the lawsuit, by sending a notice to Paramount about their intention, which came into effect in January, 2020.

Top Gun: Maverick was due to be released in June, 2020, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some reports say that the movie finished production in 2019, while the lawsuit claims it was not completed until May, 2021, over a year after the studio’s rights had terminated.

The Yonays say that the new Top Gun film is blatantly derived from the original article, and that Paramount ignored the transfer of rights.

Tom Cruise in the original 1986 Top Gun film.  He reprised his role in a 2022 sequel that was called 'derivative' by the family of the man who wrote the original inspiration for the films

Tom Cruise in the original 1986 Top Gun film. He reprised his role in a 2022 sequel that was called ‘derivative’ by the family of the man who wrote the original inspiration for the films

‘On January 24, 2020, the copyright to the story thus reverted to the Yonays under the Copyright Act,’ the lawsuit reads, ‘but Paramount deliberately ignored this, thumbing its nose at the statute.

The new film was released on May 27, 2022, and has generated a staggering $291 million in North America and $548.6 million globally. The Yonays are seeking damages, and an injunction to stop the studio from distributing the film.

‘These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously,’ Paramount told Variety.

Marc Toberoff is representing the Yonays, an attorney with experience in copyright battles between studios, blockbuster films, and the authors that they were adapted from.

He is currently representing the families of five authors who filed copyright terminations against Marvel looking for a share of the profits made from the characters their family members created.

A page from the Yonays lawsuit against Paramount Pictures.  It details how the Yonays reclaimed their rights to Top Gun in 2020, but Paramount made a sequel anyways

A page from the Yonays lawsuit against Paramount Pictures. It details how the Yonays reclaimed their rights to Top Gun in 2020, but Paramount made a sequel anyways

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