Studio behind Tom Cruise blockbuster hit Top Gun: Maverick sued over copyright

Tom Cruise reprised his role as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick. Credit: Paramount Pictures/YouTube

The family of the author whose article inspired the 1986 Tom Cruise movie Top Gun is suing Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement over this year’s highly anticipated sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.

They argue the studio did not have the rights to Ehud Yonay's 1983 story "Top Guns" when it released the sequel in May, which earned an estimated £438m in its first 10 days of release.

The lawsuit, brought by Shosh Yonay and Yuval Yonay, who are respectively Ehud's widow and son, seeks unspecified damages, including some of the profits from Top Gun: Maverick.

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It also seeks to block Paramount from distributing the film or further sequels.

According to the complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court on Monday, Paramount's Top Gun franchise would not have existed without Ehud's "literary efforts and evocative prose and narrative".

The lawsuit says that the Yonays told Paramount in 2018 that its rights to Ehud's "Top Guns" article, which appeared in a 1983 issue of California magazine, would be terminated in 2020.

But they said Paramount ignored how the copyright reverted to them in January 2020, effectively "thumbing its nose" at federal copyright law.

A cease-and-desist letter was sent to Paramount on May 11, according to the Yonays, which prompted a denial from the studio that the sequel derived from the 1983 article.

Paramount has said the legal claim was "without merit" and vowed to contest it.

For the sequel, Tom Cruise, 59, reprised his role as hot-shot Navy lieutenant Maverick, and starred alongside other big names such as Jennifer Connelly and Jon Hamm.

It was originally due for release in July 2019 but was repeatedly pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.