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Paramount Pictures Faces Top Gun Copyright Infringement Claim

— June 7, 2022

The lawsuit was filed by the surviving family members of the man who wrote the same magazine article that inspired the entire “Top Gun” franchise.

While Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick continues to break box office records, the film has already prompted a copyright infringement claim against Paramount Pictures.

According to National Public Radio, the family of the man whose magazine article inspired the first Top Gun film has filed a lawsuit against the production company.

In their complaint, Shosh and Yuval Yonay—the widow and son of the late Ehud Yonay, respectively—say they exercised their right to recover the copyright to the story in 2018.

Yonay’s family claims that they have held the exclusive copyright to Top Gun-related stories since 2020.

“Despite the 2022 Sequel clearly having derived from the Story, Paramount consciously failed to secure a new license of film and ancillary rights in the copyrighted Story following the Yonays’ recovery of their U.S. copyright on January 24, 2020,” the lawsuit states.

Copyright Law sign next to gavel; image by Nick Youngson, CC BY-SA 3.0, no changes, Alpha Stock Images.
Copyright Law sign next to gavel; image by Nick Youngson, CC BY-SA 3.0, no changes, Alpha Stock Images.

The family says that Paramount Pictures cannot justify the release of its allegedly unauthorized sequel through the “prior derivative works exception,” as the Yonays claim that Maverick was not actually completed until at least 2021.

However, Paramount Pictures allegedly never sought to reacquire the film rights before releasing Maverick.

“On January 24, 2020, the copyright to the Story thus reverted to the Yonays under the Copyright Act, but Paramount deliberately ignored this, thumbing its nose at the statute,” said the complaint, which has been filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Paramount Pictures has denied any and all wrongdoing.

“These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously,” a Paramount spokesperson told National Public Radio in a statement.

N.P.R. notes that Ehud Yonay published a California magazine article entitled “Top Guns” in 1983, three years before the release of the first eponymous film.

Paramount, says the Yonay family, negotiated the rights to the story mere weeks after its publication.

According to N.P.R., Yonay’s widow and son decided to recover the rights to the brand.

While the Yonay family may now hold Top Gun’s copyright, they cannot prevent Paramount Pictures from continuing to distribute works created when the studio still owned the copyright.

Paramount Pictures stated that it responded to a cease-and-desist letter, sent by the Yonays in May, by denying that Maverick was “obviously derivative” of Yonay’s magazine story and arguing that the film was “sufficiently completed” by January 24, 2020.

The Yonays, conversely, claim that Top Gun: Maverick was not actually finished until 2021.


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