An article called “Top Guns,” written by Ehud Yonay in 1983, was credited in the original Top Gun film when it came out in 1986. For 2022’s Top Gun: Maverick, the family of Yonay is arguing that the rights to the article were not reacquired by Paramount Global. Yonay’s family has filed a complaint in the federal court in Los Angeles, stating that Paramount no longer has the copyright to the article and, therefore, needed to reacquire the rights before releasing the sequel to the original 1986 movie.
The rights to the article reverted back to the family in 2020, the family claims, and they are seeking damages that weren’t specified in the complaint. But Paramount claims that the sequel had been “sufficiently completed” by the time of the copyright reversion, meaning that the studio adhered to what was required under federal copyright law. With both parties claiming they are in the right, the facts of the case are very important.
The family’s complaint suggested that Paramount “thumbed its nose” at copyright law, and that the studio should have to pay damages for using the article without permission. If Yonay’s family is found to be in the right in this case, Paramount will likely have to pay damages for violation of Yonay’s copyright. However, if the studio followed proper procedures under copyright law, the suit may be dismissed.
It remains to be seen what a judge decides, or if some kind of settlement will be reached. In matters of copyright law, the level of completion of the movie’s sequel will likely play a role. Where the movie was in production at the time the copyright reverted to the family will be taken into account, as it could materially affect the outcome of the lawsuit. Unless an agreement is reached by the studio and Yonay’s family, it will be up to a judge to determine which party is on the right side of the copyright law debate.
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