PARAMOUNT Pictures has asked a California federal court to throw out a lawsuit claiming that the 2022 blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick violated a copyright belonging to the heirs of reporter Ehud Yonay, whose article “Top Guns” inspired the original Top Gun movie.
Paramount told the court on Monday that the heirs’ case should fail because Maverick is not similar to the article other than their “shared subject of Top Gun and the fighter pilots who teach and train there, to which Plaintiffs have no special right.” Yonay’s widow Shosh Yonay and son Yuval Yonay said in a dueling motion that Maverick was a derivative work of Top Guns and that Paramount “ignores the plain similarities between its Top Gun movies and the Story from which the films were literally derived.” They asked the court to rule that Maverick infringed their copyright in the article.
“Jerry Bruckheimer and Paramount raced to lock up exclusive film rights under copyright to Yonay’s Top Guns precisely because it was so unusually compelling and cinematic,” the Yonays’ attorney Alex Kozinski said in an e”mail. “Now that the copyright has reverted to Yonay’s family under the Copyright Act Paramount shrugs — ‘What copyright?’ and claims it was just a bunch of ‘facts.’”
Representatives for Paramount did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Paramount obtained exclusive movie rights to Yonay’s “Top Guns,” a 1983 article about the US Navy’s Top Gun fighter-pilot training school, before making the hit 1986 Tom Cruise film Top Gun, according to the Yonays’ complaint filed last year.
The Yonays told the court that they reclaimed the rights to the article in 2020 under federal copyright law. They argued that Paramount violated their rights by failing to license the article again before making Top Gun: Maverick, and asked for a share of profits from the movie and other damages.
Top Gun: Maverick was one of the highest grossing films of 2022, earning nearly $1.5 billion globally that year.
Paramount argued on Monday that the Yonays could not prove copyright infringement because Maverick and “Top Guns” have dissimilar plots, themes, characters, dialogue and other artistic elements.
“For two works about Top Gun, the Article and Maverick are remarkably different,” Paramount said. “And the little they share is unprotectable.”
The Yonays on Monday countered that the works had “numerous similarities.” They said that Paramount’s arguments “ignore and hand-wave away the numerous creative choices Yonay made in crafting his cinematic portrayal, which breathed life into the technical humdrum of a navy base, birthing [Paramount’s] billion-dollar franchise.”
The case is Yonay v. Paramount Pictures Corp, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 2:22-cv-03846. — Reuters