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Top Gun studio sued over alleged copyright breach

The family of the writer whose article inspired the original 1986 Top Gun movie are suing film studio Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement over this year’s hit sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.

According to a complaint filed in the Los Angeles federal court on 6 June, the widow and son of Ehud Yonay, the Israeli writer of a 1983 article entitled Top Guns, claim that Paramount failed to reacquire the rights to the article from them before releasing the “derivative” sequel in May.

Shosh and Yuval Yonay, who live in Israel, claim that the Top Gun films would not have existed without Ehud Yonay’s “literary efforts and evocative prose and narrative”. They are seeking unspecified damages from the studio, including profits from Top Gun: Maverick. The family are also reportedly seeking to block distribution of the film, and any further sequels.

In a statement, Paramount described the claims as “without merit”, vowing to “vigorously” defend itself.

Directed by Joseph Kosinki, Top Gun: Maverick sees Tom Cruise reprise his role as US Navy fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell who is tasked with training a batch of elite pilots at the Top Gun flying academy for a daring raid on a nuclear enrichment plant.

The film has received strong reviews and been a box office hit, earning more than $548m (£438m) in its first 10 days and giving Cruise his first-ever $100m (£80m) box office opening weekend.

Ehud Yonay’s heirs are reportedly suing Paramount on the basis of a provision which allows authors to reclaim the rights to their work after a certain period – usually 35 years, claiming they told Paramount in 2018 that its rights to the article would end two years later, arguing that the studio lost the copyright in January 2020.

According to the reports, they allege that Paramount “consciously failed” to subsequently obtain a new copyright licence, and that in response to a May 2020 cease-and-desist letter Paramount denied that Top Gun: Maverick was based on Ehud Yonay’s 1983 article and contended that the film was “sufficiently completed” by the time the family procured the copyright.