Paramount Emerges Victorious in Top Gun Copyright Lawsuit

The Legend of Top Gun

Hitting the big screens in 1986, Top Gun became a watershed film in the annals of Hollywood. Star Tom Cruise was catapulted into superstardom and Tony Scott affirmed his status as a go-to director for captivating action sequences. Val Kilmer etched himself into viewers’ memories with his performance. Power-producer tandem Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson secured their position in Hollywood’s big leagues.

Top Gun’s Road to Franchise Success

Paramount Pictures, the studio behind this remarkable film, marked a defining success. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until the year 2022 that Top Gun transformed into a bona fide franchise. The sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, finally made its much-awaited debut, reaping enormous success at the box office after meticulous planning and sagacious development. Intriguingly, the journey of Top Gun from concept to silver screen didn’t commence with a screenplay, but a voracious deep dive into a California Magazine article published back in May 1983.

From Article to Film

Penned by renowned journalist Ehud Yonay, the riveting article, “Top Guns,” laid the scaffolding for the cinematic masterpiece. However, sparks of contention arose when Yonay’s family, represented by Shosh and Yuval Yonay, sued for alleged copyright infringement. They contended that pivotal elements of the film were directly lifted from the article, thereby playing a crucial role in the film’s meteoric rise to fame.

Court’s Verdict: Lawsuit Leaves Ground

Despite the defendants’ accusations, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson decided to dismiss the case. Notably, the film’s plot, theme, setting, and dialogue were distinctly varied from the original article, according the judge’s findings. Also, the overlapping factual similarities between the article and the film, such as the characteristic setting of an air combat school, fell outside the ambit of copyright protection.

The judge’s order further clarified that the supposed copyright infringements were in fact “unprotectable factual similarities.” Real-life aspects, like Top Gun being an actual fighter pilot school, or real people like Yogi and Possum mentioned in the article, fall outside the reach of copyright law.

The Aftermath: Paramount Basks, Plaintiffs Plan Appeal

Despite the court’s ruling, the Yonay family asserted its plans to appeal the decision. The family’s attorney, Marc Toberoff underlined that Ehud Yonay’s widow and son had exercised their rights to claim what they believed was Yonay’s intellectual property. Paramount, according to Toberoff, disregarded their rights leading him to state, “It’s not a good look.”

In conclusion, the danger appears to have abated for Paramount for the time being following their victory in the Top Gun copyright lawsuit. However, with an impending appeal from the plaintiffs, it seems the franchise’s legal journey remains up in the air.

In the history and lore of Hollywood, Top Gun has etched a significant position with its influence and success. The recent copyright battle surrounding the movie adds an intriguing twist to its illustrious narrative. As we move forward, it will be interesting to see how this legal saga unfolds in the near future surrounding the beloved franchise.


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