Copyright Infringement

Authors’ Heirs Sue Paramount, Challenge ‘Top Gun’ Copyright

The original story that started the blockbuster ‘Top Gun’ franchise came from a 1983 article in California magazine. The author’s heirs are suing Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement. They claim that the studio is pulling in tremendous profits from their “Top Gun: Maverick” sequel, even though the copyright to the story has expired.

Ehud Yonay, the author of the article, died in 2012. In 2018, his widow and son, Shosh Yonay and Yuval Yonay, filed a notice that they wanted to reclaim the copyright. This took effect in 2020.

The lawsuit states that Paramount failed to obtain a new license to use the underlying story before they distributed the Top Gun sequel. The legal filing seeks damages and an injunction that would prevent further distribution of the film.

Currently the top grossing theatrical release, “Top Gun: Maverick” has pulled in $300 million.

The Yonays are being represented by attorney Marc Toberoff, who is experienced in copyright termination fights with major film studios.

Currently, Toberoff is representing five comic book creators in a lawsuit against Marvel. The company is challenging termination notices that were filed on behalf of the authors. Each one claims partial copyright ownership, raising the question of whether they are entitled to further compensation, rather than an injunction.  

Section 203 of the Copyright Act states that authors may terminate transfers of copyright after 35 years.

“Top Gun: Maverick” began production in May 2018. Its release was originally scheduled for July 2019, but the movie was postponed one year, to June 2020, for additional time to film the flight sequences. Production was then postponed two more years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the lawsuit, the film was not finished until May 2021, a year following the termination date.

Paramount responded to the suit by saying that the claims had no merit, and vowed to “vigorously” defend its position.  

Variety – June 6, 2022 – Gene Maddaus

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