‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Copyright Case to Continue as Judge Rebuffs Motion to Dismiss

TOP GUN: MAVERICK - Credit: Paramount Pictures*
TOP GUN: MAVERICK - Credit: Paramount Pictures*

Paramount Pictures has failed to get the copyright lawsuit over Top Gun: Maverick dismissed.

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, a judge rejected the studio’s motion to dismiss the suit, saying it “contains sufficient well-pleaded facts” to support its claims of copyright infringement, breach of contract, and declaratory relief. Paramount will now have to file its answer to the suit no later than Nov. 28.

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The lawsuit was brought by the family of Ehud Yonay, a journalist who wrote a 1983 article for California magazine called “Top Guns,” which served as the basis for the original 1986 movie. Paramount, at the time, secured the exclusive movie rights to the story after it was published, and Yonay received a “based on” credit as well.

Yonay died in 2012, but his family began the process of retrieving the copyright to the “Top Guns” story in 2018; it officially reverted back to them in January 2020. While Top Gun: Maverick went into production in May 2018, the lawsuit claims that it wasn’t completed until May 2021, over a year after the Yonays retrieved the copyright. As such, it accuses Paramount of going ahead with the film without securing a new license.

Paramount, in its motion to dismiss the case (per Variety), argued that it no longer needed those rights because Top Gun: Maverick was a work of fiction that had little in common with Yonay’s 1983 article. The Yonays had argued that it “naturally follows” that Maverick “was derived from Ehud Yonay’s story,” noting the original film’s screenwriters — Jim Cast and Jack Epps, Jr. — received a writing credit on the sequel. They also argued that Maverick, like the original film, “reveals key elements that are substantially similar” to those in Yonay’s article.

Ultimately Judge Percy Anderson sided with the Yonays, writing, “there are enough alleged similarities between the Article and the Sequel for reasonable minds to differ on the issue of substantial similarity, including the filtering out of unprotected elements.” He also ruled that the Yonays could proceed with a breach of contract claim they added to their lawsuit in August, seeking acknowledgment that Maverick was based on the 1983 article.

A rep for Paramount tells Rolling Stone, “While the Court declined to dismiss the case at this very early stage in the proceedings, we will continue to vigorously defend this lawsuit and are confident that discovery will confirm that the claims have no merit.”

Lawyers for the Yonays did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.

This story was updated on 11/11/22 @ 3:39 p.m. ET with a statement from Paramount Pictures.

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