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Copyright Problems For The Studio That Made The Recent Top Gun Movie


When it comes to copyright infringement, and making sure that you have the correct licenses and permissions to use others’ intellectual property, you would think that multimillion dollar movie studios always get it right. But even they aren’t free from infringement lawsuits, as Paramount is now finding out after being sued after the release of the most recent Top Gun movie.

Movie Made From Copyrighted Article

You may already know that Top Gun is actually a remake or a sequel, to the 1986 hit movie with the same name (and many of the same actors). The 1986 movie was not original; it actually was based on previously written, and copyrighted material. Many movies are based on articles or books that are copyrighted.

When the 1986 movie came out, Paramount apparently acquired all the permissions and licenses that they needed, to use the source copyrighted material, which was an article. Since the first 1986 movie, the author of the article has passed away, but his heirs who now own the copyright claim that Paramount did not get permission from them, to create and release the Top Gun remake.

Copyright Was Reclaimed

The heirs say that they told Paramount that they were reclaiming their rights in the copyrighted work, in 2020. The new Top Gun did start shooting until 2018-long before 2020. However, the movie did not complete production until 2021—after the copyright had, allegedly, been legally reclaimed by the heirs of the original author.

If it matters—and it will be a legal issue to see if it does—COVID largely delayed the finishing of the movie; it was slated to be complete long before the transfer of the copyright back to the family in 2020.

Paramount will likely argue that the original copyrighted material was merely an article—a far cry from the finished product—an entire Top Gun movie. As such, the studio may argue that the original work has been embellished, charged and transformed so much that it has become an independent creation, making it unnecessary to acquire or require the original license.

Terminating Intellectual Property Licenses

It is, of course, quite common for owners of copyrighted material, to grant others a license to use the copyright, especially when the license may stand to provide the copyright owner money, such as when a studio comes calling, wanting to turn someone’s work into a movie.

However, the grant of the use of a copyright can’t just be terminated unilaterally; the owner of the copyright has to provide notice that is required by law. That notice can be very complex, with time frames that can vary, depending on whether the author or the author’s estate is terminating, where there are multiple authors, where an original author has died, or where the copyright license was granted for a derivative work to be developed.

Call the West Palm Beach copyright litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today for help with your intellectual property agreements.




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