Court dismisses case against Paramount

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Paramount wins a copyright lawsuit brought by the heirs of the author of the 1983 magazine story that inspired the original top Gun Accused the studio of moving forward with a blockbuster sequel without renegotiating a new license.

U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, in an order dismissing the case on Friday, found that several elements of the film – including the plot, themes, setting and dialogue – differ “substantially” from Ehud Yone’s article. And to the extent that both works revolve around a fighter pilot training school, the court concluded that any overlapping factual similarities are not protected by copyright law,

In a statement, copyright expiration heavyweight Mark Toberoff, who represents the plaintiffs, said the court’s decision dismissing the lawsuit on summary judgment will be appealed. He added, “Once Yone’s widow and son exercised their rights under the Copyright Act to reclaim his thrilling story, Paramount asked ‘What copyright?’ “Forgave him by saying. This is not a good look.”

Shosh and Yuval Yone’s lawsuit alleges that the rights to the story reverted to them in 2020 after they sent a termination notice to Paramount. He took advantage of a provision of copyright law that allows authors to regain the rights to their works after waiting a certain period of time.

Paramount argued that it did not need to obtain a new license because the article in question is a non-fiction work and bears no resemblance to an action blockbuster. It was also said that the sequel was completed before the deadline.

The court disagreed, attributing the dismissal primarily to the unsafe factual similarity between the two works. “Although the plot of both the article and the sequel involve Top Gun and various graduates and instructors, Top Gun is an actual fighter pilot school and the graduates and instructors mentioned in the article are real people (i.e., Yogi and Possum),” it says. order. “Those factual elements are not protected by copyright law.”

Anderson applied the federal appeals courts’ so-called externality test, which compares similarities in plot, theme, dialogue, characters, setting, and pacing, among other things, between two works. Under that analysis, they excluded certain factual elements that are not covered by copyright law, such as the general plot idea of ​​fighter pilots training and heading out on missions.

Responding to arguments that the works are similar because they both depict fighter pilots landing on an aircraft carrier, being shot while taking off and being entertained all at once, the court said they were based on “unproven facts” or ” Familiar Stock View”.

“The speed and sequence of events in the actions are also not uniform,” the order said. “The article is structured in a non-linear manner, switching back and forth between describing Yogi and Possum’s training, their background, technical aspects of the F-14 fighter jet, etc. The sequel, on the other hand, progresses in a linear manner. Fashion and it has a constant pace.”

Anderson found that the film’s themes, dialogue, characters, setting, and selection and arrangement are not identical to those presented in the article. Notable differences in setting, for example, include the pilots preparing for their missions at Naval Air Station North Island in the sequel as opposed to Naval Air Station Miramar in the article.

Any similarity, he stressed, “is based on insecure elements.” It contains dialogue, which cannot form the basis of a copyright claim because it is presented in the article as actual statements made by actual people.

The court’s dismissal was based largely on expert testimony on alleged similarities presented by both sides. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has warned against prematurely dismissing copyright lawsuits before experts are allowed to testify. This partly served as the basis for a federal appeals court in 2020 reviving a lawsuit alleging that Guillermo del Toro’s shape of water Infringed upon the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Zindel. Toberoff represented the plaintiff in that case, which was also supervised by Anderson.

In particular, the expert testimony of Yonez’s expert was excluded. The court agreed with Paramount that it improperly failed to filter out facts from the article and film that are not protected by copyright law and that its opinion was “unhelpful” because it provided a subjective comparison of the works. On the other hand, the testimony of Paramount’s expert was allowed to be considered.

A breach of contract claim by Paramount for refusing to credit Yone in the film was also dismissed.

Anderson said that Paramount did not need to credit Yone because the sequel was not produced under assignment of the rights to the 1983 article. He argued that the film was made “independently of the rights” granted to Paramount by contract.

The order reads, “Since a member of the public can produce a sequel-like motion picture—which does not infringe the copyright of the article—without attributing it to Yone, the assignment of the rights should not be construed to require the defendant to do so.” Needed.”

“We are pleased that the court recognized that the plaintiffs’ claims were completely baseless,” a Paramount Pictures spokesperson said in a statement.

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