Top Gun Maverick Sued for Copyright Infringement

Ehud Yonay, whose 1983 story was the basis of the original 1986 film “Top Gun,” published “Top Guns” in April 1983 in an issue of California magazine and registered it in the U.S. Copyright Office later that year. Soon after it was published Paramount secured exclusive motion picture rights to the story, according to the complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles federal court. 

The Yonays claim that after sending Paramount a statutory notice of termination under the Copyright Act in 2018, they became the sole owners of the US copyright for the story in 2020. They said they invoked a provision of the law that allows artists who transfer copyrights to reclaim those rights 35 years later. 

The case was filed by Marc Toberoff, an attorney who specializes in suing movie studios on behalf of artists and writers. Toberoff has represented legendary comic book artists in litigation with Walt Disney Co. stemming from the media giant’s acquisition of the Marvel super hero franchise in 2009.

Also on the Yonays’ team is Alex Kozinski, a prominent former judge on the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and known movie buff who has cultivated a copyright litigation specialty.

The Yonays allege that Paramount’s response to their May cease-and-desist letter was “total denial of the fact that its 2022 sequel was obviously derivative of” Ehud Yonay’s story. Paramount claimed the movie was “sufficiently completed” before the effective termination date of its copyrights, according to the complaint.

The case is Yonay v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 22-cv-03846, US District Court, District of Central California (Los Angeles).