“Good morning aviators,” says Tom Cruise in a line from blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick. “This is your captain speaking. Today’s exercise is dogfighting.”
Specifically, a legal dogfight between box office high flying Paramount Pictures and the Israeli-based widow and son of the author of the 1983 article that inspired the original 1986 flick.
In a copyright suit filed today in federal court in California, Shosh Yonay and Yuval Yonay want unspecified but clearly big bucks damages from the studio and, with a very odd sense of timing, they want an injunction to stop screenings and distribution of the May 27 released sequel and anymore more movies in the franchise. Calling the nearly $300 million domestic box office hauling Top Gun: Maverick “derivative,” the Marc Toberoff and Alex Kozinski represented Yonays allege that Paramount is “thumbing its nose at the statute” that allows the termination of rights after 35 years (Read the complaint here).
“These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously,” said a Paramount spokesperson today in response. The studio will obviously have to respond to the suit in the federal docket in due course.
In the May 1983 edition of California magazine, Ehud Yonay penned entitled “Top Guns” about the pilots and program “located in a second-floor cubby of offices at the east end of Hangar One at Miramar.” The piece was optioned ASAP and Yonay was cited in the credits of the first Top Gun.
All cool as Iceman so far, right?
Well, yes, but then you get to the long delayed Maverick and the rights to the article reverting back to the Yonays in January 2020.
“Despite the 2022 Sequel clearly having derived from the Story, Paramount consciously failed to secure a new license of film and ancillary rights in the copyrighted Story following the Yonays’ recovery of their U.S. copyright on January 24, 2020,” the three-claim, jury trial demanding civil complaint says. :The Yonays contend and Paramount denies that the 2022 Sequel does not qualify for the “prior derivative works exception” under 17 U.S.C.because it was not completed until long after January 24, 2020.”
While seemingly not engaging deeply with the Yonays and their studio giant slaying attorneys, Paramount did tell the now plaintiffs last month that “the 2022 Sequel was
“sufficiently completed” by January 24, 2020 (the effective termination date) in a
disingenuous attempt to bootstrap the 2022 Sequel into the ‘prior derivative works’
exception to termination.”
So ladies, gents and Bob, we have ourselves a showdown.
BTW – if you recognize the name Marc Toberoff, you are G-force deluxe. The Toberoff & Associates founder took on Warner Bros and Marvel/Disney for the heirs and estates of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster and the great Jack Kirby. Currently, now along with this Top Gun action, Toberoff is locked in a war with Marvel over termination rights for characters created by the like of the deceased Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Don Rico, Don Heck, Gene Colan and the still living Larry Lieber.
Strap in, there will be turbulence.
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