Paramount Is Still Dealing With That Prickly Top Gun: Maverick Lawsuit

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The family of the journalist whose piece served as the basis for the first film believes Paramount is taking advantage of them.

The late journalist Ehud Yonay, whose 1983 article “Top Guns” served as the inspiration for the original Tony Scott-directed Top Gun film, filed a lawsuit against Paramount last summer, while Tom Cruise was tearing up the box office and taking aim at [generic, unnamed foreign enemy] in Top Gun: Maverick.

Yonay was credited in the original film, but not in the sequel, and Yonay’s heirs have argued that the rights to the story had reverted back to them in the years since the first movie came out and so Paramount was required to make a new deal with them before releasing the sequel.

The movie had mostly been completed before the rights would’ve reverted to Yonay, so any issues with the rights to the story were irrelevant. Now, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, both sides are in court trying to convince a judge to make a summary judgement on the matter, which means a whole lot of arguing about who is right. Both sides have also expanded their arguments since last year, with Yonay’s heirs now pointing to specific sequences and story beats from Maverick that they say are pulled from the “Top Guns” article.

For example, stuff in the sequel like student pilots getting “shot down” in training, ace pilots getting invited back to the Top Gun program to be instructors, and someone getting in trouble at a Navy bar for not following its arcane rules are all supposedly pulled from the original article (according to Yonay’s heirs. However, argues that everything in Maverick that is also in the article can’t be subjected to a copyright claim because they’re “reported in the Article as factual.”
Similarly, says that the Navy bar scene, where Maverick has to buy everyone a round of drinks for having his cellphone out, is based on something that really happened to Maverick director Joseph Kosinski (who also says that he hasn’t read the “Top Guns” article). That any factual details about life in the Navy or things that could hypothetically happen to Navy pilots in this kind of situation came from working with the actual Navy.

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However, the Yonays have a pretty strong counterargument, pointing out that until 2020, when Paramount lost the rights and “flip-flopped and renounced its long-held legal position it benefited from for decades,” it was happy to consider the “Top Guns” article “an expressive copyrightable “story.” In other words, Paramount is arguing that it is unnecessary and never was, but the family of the author of the essay that served as at least some inspiration for the first film is emphasizing that this wasn’t always the case until recently.

 

 

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