Paramount sued for a Top Gun sequel from a family of an author of an article that inspired an original film

Paramount sued for “Top Gun: Maverick”: Family of author who wrote article that inspired original film accuses producers of “slapping the nose” at copyright for “derivative” sequel

  • Ehud Yonay’s family says Paramount’s rights to the Top Gun story expired 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 says the studio ignored their notices that they had reclaimed the copyright of the story, and distributed the film without involving them.
  • The new film was released in May and generated a staggering $ 291 million in North America and $ 548.6 million worldwide, and the Yonays are seeking damages.

The author’s family, whose article inspired the original 1986 film Top Gun, sued Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement over this year’s blockbuster sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.

The family of Ehud Yonay, who died in 2012, claimed that Paramount did not regain the rights to the original article by the late 1983 author, Top Guns, before publishing what the lawsuit 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 returned to them in January 2020, “shrinking their nose” at federal copyright law.

The lawsuit comes as Top Gun: Maverick hovered through the box office, amassing more than half a billion dollars in its first 10 days.

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

The cover page of Ehud Yonay's 1983 article Top Guns, which inspired the original 1986 Top Gun movie

The cover page of Ehud Yonay’s 1983 article Top Guns, which inspired the original 1986 Top Gun movie

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

Paramount bought exclusive rights to the 35-year-old story, which Yonays says ended in 2020. The family began reclaiming the copyright of an original story in 2018, according to the lawsuit, sending notice to Paramount of their intention to come in 2018 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 the film ended production in 2019, while the lawsuit claims it was not completed until May 2021, more than a year after the studio’s rights ended.

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

Tom Cruise in the original 1986 Top Gun movie.  He reprized his role in a 2022 sequel that was named

Tom Cruise in the original 1986 Top Gun movie. He reprized his role in a 2022 sequel that was called a “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 that, affecting the statute.

The new film was released on May 27, 2022, and generated a staggering $ 291 million in North America and $ 548.6 million worldwide. The Yonays are looking for flaws, and a ban on stopping the film’s distribution studio.

“These claims are worthless, and we will vigorously defend ourselves,” Paramount said Various.

Marc Toberoff represents the Yonays, a lawyer with experience in copyright fights between studios, blockbusters, and the authors from whom they were adapted.

He currently represents the families of five authors who filed copyright lawsuits against Marvel in search of a share of the profits made from the characters their family members created.

Page of the Yonays lawsuit against Paramount Pictures.  It details how the Yonays regained their rights to Top Gun in 2020, but Paramount nevertheless made a sequel.

Page of the Yonays lawsuit against Paramount Pictures. It details how the Yonays regained their rights to Top Gun in 2020, but Paramount nevertheless made a sequel.

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