Top Gun Maverick has broken box office records. It might also lead to a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
In April 1983, California magazine published a story titled “Top Guns” written by Ehud Yonay. Paramount obtained exclusive rights to this and released the first movie in 1986 starring Tom Cruise. Now Yonay’s heirs are claiming the sequel is unauthorised. An interesting quirk of US copyright law allows an author (or their estate) to terminate a licence 35 years after it was first granted. The heirs claim they gave the required notice to Paramount and warned them not to proceed with the new movie. Not surprisingly, Paramount have said they will defend this “vigorously” (as if there’s any other way to defend!).
There is a lot at stake here. It seems Paramount concede the new film is indeed covered by the copyright in the original article. So, much will turn on the timing and validity of the notice.
This is a good reminder to check your licences and look out for (purported) termination notices.
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This post first appeared on the Teacher Stern website.