Top Gun: Maverick has gotten rave reviews and has had a huge first two weekends at the box office, but if the heirs of the author of a 1983 magazine article have their way, no one else will get a chance to see it. The article in question, "Top Guns," was written by Ehud Yonay about the Navy Fighter Weapons School known as Top Gun at Naval Air Station Miramar in California's San Diego County. Paramount optioned it right away, using it as the basis for Top Gun in 1986 and giving Yonay "based on" credit in the film. Now the heirs of the late Yonay say so much time has passed that Paramount no longer owns the copyright for the article and should never have released a sequel to the 1986 movie, Deadline reports.
The US Copyright Act allows authors to retrieve the rights to their works after 35 years, and Yonay's widow and son filed a notice to reclaim the rights in 2018, which they say Paramount was notified of, Variety reports. They say the rights reverted to them in 2020, Rolling Stone reports. Paramount has promised to "vigorously defend" itself against the allegations it insists are "without merit," but one of the lawyers representing the Yonays says, "Much as Paramount wants to pretend otherwise, they made a sequel to Top Gun after they lost their copyright. As Maverick would say: ‘It’s time to buzz the tower.'"
Production on the sequel started in 2018, but the lawsuit claims it was not completed until May 2021. The film was originally scheduled for release in July 2019; it was delayed a year to put more work into the flight sequences, then delayed further due to the COVID pandemic. But Paramount says it was "sufficiently completed" by January 2020, before copyright reverted to the Yonays. The lawsuit says the Yonays also sent Paramount a cease-and-desist letter regarding the movie in May of this year, but Paramount still released it without obtaining a new license for the article. The suit is seeking damages, and an injunction to stop screenings and any further distribution of the movie. (Read more Top Gun stories.)