July 23, 2024


Law can do.

Paramount sued for copyright infringement by heirs of writer who inspired film


Paramount Pictures has been sued for copyright infringement over its latest blockbuster hit Top Gun: Maverick.

The action movie – which sees Tom Cruise as the Navy’s top pilot confronting the ghosts of his past – is a sequel to the original 1986 movie, in which he also starred.

Since its release on 27 May, it has broken box office records, earning an estimated $151m (£119m) in North America for the four-day Memorial Day weekend, in addition to another $85m (£68m) in its second week, including $25m (£20m) on Friday 3 June.

However, on Monday (6 June), a lawsuit was filed to the California federal court by Shosh and Yuval Yonay, the heirs of author Ehud Yonay.

In April 1983, California magazine published a story titled “Top Guns” written by Ehud, on which the original film was based.

According to the suit, the heirs are suing on the grounds of a certain provision in copyright law which allows authors to take back the rights to their work after a period of time, usually 35 years.

The Yonays have claimed that they originally sent Paramount a notice of termination, but that the studio “deliberately ignored this, thumbing its nose at the statute”.

Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun: Maverick' (Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures)

Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ (Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures)

Now, they are seeking an injunction to stop the studio from further profiting off of Top Gun: Maverick.

“This case arises out of Paramount’s conscious failure to re-acquire the requisite film and ancillary rights to the Yonays’ copyrighted Story prior to the completion and release of their derivative 2022 Sequel,” wrote Marc Toberoff and Alex Kozinski, the Yonay’s legal representatives.

While Paramount legally received the copyright to Ehud’s story immediately when it was published in 1983, the lawsuit alleges that it “consciously failed” to obtain a new licence once the Yonays procured the rights in 2020.

Following a cease-and-desist letter sent to the studio on 11 May 2022, two weeks before the film’s release, Paramount allegedly denied that the project was an offshoot of the copyrighted story.

The Yonays assert that the movie wasn’t finished until 8 May 2021, exceeding the expiration date of the story’s rights by over a year.

Instead, Paramount has maintained that the sequel was “sufficiently completed” prior to the termination date. Further adding in a statement that “these claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously”.

Read The Independent’s full movie review here.

Top Gun: Maverick, which is out in cinemas now, has received widespread acclaim, with critics calling it the “best film of the year”.


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