Top Gun in the Air

The rights over Top Gun are up in the air, but for how long? Paramount Pictures just moved for summary judgment the case surrounding the rights over Top Gun: Maverick (the sequel to 1986 classic, Top Gun). Here’s the context:

Top Gun?

In the 1980s, Ehud Yonay wrote an article about Top Gun, the real life the Navy Fighter Weapons School, for California Magazine. The article detailed the school, it’s history, the planes utilized, and two real-life lieutenants, Alex “Yogi” Hnarakis and Dave “Possum” Cully.  Yonay eventually assigned the rights to the story to Paramount back in the 1980s —— which Paramount contends was unneeded because “all the facts are public domain.”

That assignment provided that Yonay would get credit if a movie was “produced…[]under” the Assignment and that is “substantially based upon or adapted from [the Article] or any version or adaptation thereof, substantially incorporating the plot, theme, characterizations, motive and treatment of [the Article] or any version or adaptation thereof.” Yonay eventually terminated the assignment, which was effective in 2020.

Eventually a Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, was produced and hit the box office. The story — if you haven’t seen the movie and aren’t planning on it — is detailed in the Paramount’s motion for summary judgment. To save you time, just know it’s like 30 years into the future and follows the next batch of Top Gun recruits (while also including a few of the main characters from the last movie).

Paramount has now moved for summary judgment, asserting that the new movie is not derivative/substantially similar of Yonay’s article. Addressing the movie’s plot, themes, setting, dialogue, pacing, selection, and arrangement, Paramount lays out how it believes the movie differs substantially from the article.

The Verdict:

Given the movie was a blockbuster success (grossing $1.496 billion worldwide), it’s clear this case is as contentious as it can be. This case is far from over and the fight is just beginning.

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