Israeli family sues Hollywood studio over ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ copyright

The original 1986 blockbuster was based on the work of Israeli journalist Ehud Yonay.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

The Israeli family of a journalist whose work inspired the original 1986 “Top Gun” blockbuster filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Paramount Pictures as its long-awaited sequel skyrockets at the box office.

The original 1986 film was inspired by Israeli journalist Ehud Yonay, who wrote an article about the U.S. Navy’s Top Gun program for training fighter pilots in 1983 for California Magazine. Although California Magazine was not widely read, Yonay’s story caught the attention of Paramount executives.

“Top Gun” went on to become the highest grossing movie of 1986.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claims Paramount failed to obtain a new license to use Yonay’s material in the sequel, “Top Gun Maverick.” The sequel, which was released on May 26, has raked in $839 million.

Yonay died of brain cancer in Israel in 2012. He was 71 years old and spent his final years in Kfar Hassidim, near Haifa. The lawsuit was filed by his wife, Shosh, and son Yuval.

According to the lawsuit, Paramount obtained exclusive rights to Yonay’s article, “Top Guns,” before proceeding with the 1986 film. The film credited Yonay as the “story-by” author.

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However, the suit says the Yonay family filed a notice in 2018 reclaiming the copyright to the story, which took effect in 2020.

The suit claims that authors have the right to terminate transfers of copyright after a period of 35 years. Paramount intended to release the sequel in 2020, but filming was delayed several times by the coronavirus pandemic. The suit says the sequel is a derivative of Yonay’s work.

The suit further claims that when the family sent Paramount a cease and desist notice, the studio responded that the sequel was “sufficiently completed.”

The suit seeks unspecified damages as well as an injunction to prevent Paramount from distributing the film.

A Paramount spokesman told The Wrap, an entertainment news site, “These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”