While Tom Cruise and the row of celebrities from “Top Gun: Maverick” appears to be enjoying another round of applause for their box office success, the production behind may be feeling the heat from a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against them.
Shosh Yonay and Yuval Yonay, widow, and son of a writer whose article inspired the original “Top Gun” are suing Paramount Pictures over the rights they failed to reacquire after it was terminated under the US Copyright Act and were subjected to “derivative” from Ehud Yonay’s 1983 original story. The lawsuit says that Paramount has been on notice since 2018 that the Yonays intended to recover the copyright under a provision that lets artists do so after 35 years
According to the lawsuit filed in California federal court, in January 2018, the Yonays had sent notice to Paramount that they would reclaim the Copyrights which will be terminated two years later. But the film was only released a year later in May 2021. Thus, the lawsuit contends that Paramount produced and distributed the sequel a year after the rights expired. The Yonays had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Paramount seeking unspecified damages from the film studio, including profits from Top Gun: Maverick. The film has generated more than $546 million globally since its release.
In response to the allegation, Paramount’s attorney stated the claims “are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously” to which the film had been sufficiently completed by January 24, 2020 and was not derivative of Yonay’s article as it was reverted to them.
Paramount also added that the film was supposed to release in 2019 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Timing is going to be very important in this case because the notice of termination was sent… to have an effective date of 2020,” Paramount’s attorney explained.
The film Top Gun: Maverick began to shoot in May 2018. Hence, it was alleged that “Maverick” did not complete the production in 2019, prior to the copyright transfer, but rather in May 2021. The sequel has been in development for years and was originally set to be released in July 2019 but was delayed many times, partly because of the pandemic. It is quite unclear when Paramount officially finished the film, but that timeline will likely be important as the copyright lawsuit unfolds.
Yonay’s original article was about the Navy Fighter Weapons School training program and two pilots in the course, the hotshot “Yogi” and his friend “Possum,” was published in the May 1983 issue of California magazine. Soon after Paramount Pictures acquired exclusive motion picture rights. “Top Gun” was released in 1986 and went on to become the No. 1 film of the year, perhaps why people try to leverage as much as they could.
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