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Paramount Entering The Danger Zone With Legal Battle Over Top Gun Rights

One of the side effects of the massive success of a movie or TV show is the filing of a lawsuit — a hazard industry professionals know about all too well. There was that time someone sued the producers of "The Big Bang Theory" over the rights to the song "Soft Kitty" (via Reuters). Elsewhere, an ongoing lawsuit has kept the rights to the "Friday the 13th" film franchise up in the air for years (via The Hollywood Reporter). Fans are no strangers to seeing such lawsuits halt production on anticipated projects or their distribution for lengthy periods of time. Sometimes they're settled in favor of the studio, sometimes in favor of the rights holder, and sometimes the difference is split.

And so it goes with the mega-blockbuster sequel "Top Gun: Maverick" following an incredible opening weekend at the box office and the near-domination of pop culture with its buzzy story and A-list cast. As the movie heads into its third week in theaters, a group connected to the first film in the franchise has a bone to pick with Paramount over the hit sequel, which follows Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) teaching a whole new crew of pilots how to dogfight in the friendly skies. Who filed suit against Paramount Pictures, and how are they connected to the person without whom the original "Top Gun" would have never existed?

The heirs of the journalist who wrote the article Top Gun is inspired by are not pleased with Paramount

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Shosh and Yuval Yonay have filed suit against Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement in California federal court. They are the heirs to Ehud Yonay, who wrote a story titled "Top Guns" for California magazine about a group of pilots working at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego in 1983 (the article is archived via fan sites such as Top Gun Bio). Paramount bought the rights to Yonay's story shortly after it was published. Through the efforts of co-writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr., the fictional tale of Maverick, Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer), and their compatriots' training at the elite flight school known as colloquially as "TOPGUN" was crafted. The Yonay family is looking for an injunction to block the studio's further promotion of "Top Gun: Maverick."

Both of Yonay's heirs claim in their suit that Paramount no longer has the rights to Yonay's story, did not attempt to contact them for an extension on said rights, and knew they did not have permission when they proceeded to develop "Top Gun: Maverick." They state that the copyright for Yonay's work reverted to their control in 2020, years after Paramount purchased the rights for "Top Gun." This falls in line with a loophole in California copyright law which, per The Hollywood Reporter, opens the path for rights holders to reclaim control of their own work decades after signing off on a deal. The Yonays sent a Cease and Desist order to Paramount on May 11, 2022, claiming that the film's script wasn't completed until May 8, 2021.

A representative of Paramount told The Hollywood Reporter, "These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously." The studio also states that the film's script had been in a state of completion before their claim to the property expired in 2020.