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The family of the Israeli writer Ehud Yonay, whose 1983 story ‘Top Guns’ allegedly inspired the blockbuster ‘Top Gun’ movie franchise, is suing Paramount pictures for releasing Top Gun: Maverick after the studio’s rights to the story expired.

Top Gun: Maverick sees actor Tom Cruise reprising his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell from the original 1986 film Top Gun. The sequel sees Maverick return to the titular fighter piloting school as an instructor, training the next generation of top pilots for the United States.

It has already earned $548M and enjoyed the fourth-biggest opening weekend of any film since the outbreak of COVID-19, surpassed only by Spider-Man: No Way Home, second-place Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and then The Batman. The film gave Tom Cruise his first ever opening weekend worth more than $100M, outstripping his previous record in War of the Worlds with $64M in 2005.

The lawsuit - filed on Monday at the Los Angeles federal court by Shosh and Yuval Yonay, Ehud's widow and son - alleges that Paramount failed to reacquire the rights to Ehud's magazine article after it was terminated under the US Copyright Act. Paramount says the claim was "without merit" and vowed to contest it.

BBC reports that the family is seeking unspecified damages from the film studio, including profits from Top Gun: Maverick. Their suit alleges that the film would not have existed without Ehud’s story, including its "literary efforts and evocative prose and narrative."

The lawsuit said that in 2018, the Yonays informed Paramount that its rights to Ehud's article would be terminated two years later, and that the studio did in fact lose the rights to the piece in 2020.

"Much as Paramount wants to pretend otherwise, they made a sequel to Top Gun after they lost their copyright," lawyer Marc Toberoff, who is representing the Yonays, told BBC.

Paramount said in a statement: "These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously."

Mitra Ahouraian, a Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney, told the BBC that Paramount's plans to produce Top Gun: Maverick in 2018 and release it in 2019 were delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. "Timing is going to be very important in this case because the notice of termination was sent... to have an effective date of 2020," Ms Ahouraian explained.