The exclusive right to copy and distribute a creative work, or a copyright, provides protection to its owner and that person’s original expression of an idea or thought. The film released on May 27, 2022, “Top Gun: Maverick”, has recently found itself involved in a copyright infringement lawsuit. The classic film “Top Gun,” featuring Tom Cruise in the starring role, is based on a magazine article written in 1983. The heirs of the author of the magazine article filed a lawsuit on June 6, 2022, in federal court in Los Angeles, California alleging copyright infringement.[i] The heirs claim that Paramount Global’s rights to the original magazine story expired in 2022.[ii]
What is a copyright?
A copyright is a form of intellectual property that secures “original works of authorship” once the creator has created a “tangible form of expression.”[iii] A copyright is able to protect a wide variety of works, including photographs, musical compositions, books, plays, architectural renderings, and movies.[iv] Once a creator composes the original work and creates a tangible item from it, that person become the creator and copyright owner. The United States law regarding copyrights awards the creator and copyright owner with exclusive rights to make copies of the work, display the work, and, important to the case at hand, assemble derivative works based upon the original work. The original owner of the copyright also carries the right to allow or authorize other individuals or companies to exercise the exclusive rights they hold. Lastly, the original owner and its heirs have the right to terminate granted rights after thirty-five years.