Paramount Pictures is facing a legal battle over the rights for ‘Top Gun‘. As per the lawsuit filed on Monday at the California federal court, the studio was aware of not having rights to the sequel ‘Top Gun: Maverick‘, but went ahead with the production and distribution nonetheless. 

Who filed the complaint

Shosh and Yuval Yonay filed the complaint. They are the heirs of Ehud Yonay, who penned the 1983 ‘California’ magazine story titled ‘Top Guns’, which went on to inspire the 1986 classic. 

The legality of the suit

The Yonays are using the provision in the copyright law which allows authors to seize back the rights to their works after a waiting time, which is typically 35 years. 

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Several studios have to grapple with the reality of losing rights to many of their iconic works from the 1980s. 

As per the Yonays, the rights reverted to them in January 2020, but Paramount Studios went ahead with the Tom Cruise-starring sequel, ignoring the notice of termination sent to them. The duo is now seeking an injunction to prevent Paramount from further exploiting ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. 

Statements from parties 

“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”, said Marc Toberoff, the copyright termination heavyweight, who along with former federal appellate judge Alex Kozinski, is representing the Yonays. 

Paramount in their statement, noted, “These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.” 

The completion date kerfuffle 

Paramount had obtained the initial rights back in 1983, almost immediately after the story was published. It focused on the personal experiences of pilots including the hotshot duo “Yogi” and “Possum”.  

As per the duo, Paramount didn’t get a new license after the Yonays had taken back the rights in 2020. A cease and desist letter was sent to the studio by the two, on May 11, 2022, two weeks before the sequel was released. 

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The duo claim the film got over on May 8, 2021, over a year from the expiration of the copyright. Paramount, however, has said that the sequel was adequately completed before the date of termination. Moreover, Paramount has allegedly denied the film being a derivative of the copyrighted tale. 

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ faced release delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has seen immense theatrical success, raking in $550 million globally, reaching $90 million in the second weekend.