John Lydon loses court battle to stop Sex Pistols songs being used in a new TV series

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John LydonImage source, EPA
Image caption,
Lydon objected to the Sex Pistols' music being used in a Danny Boyle-directed TV drama

John Lydon has lost a High Court battle to stop the Sex Pistols music from being used in a new TV drama.

Former drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones had sued Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, after he tried to veto the use of the punk group's songs in a show directed by Danny Boyle.

The pair argued that the group had an agreement that such decisions could be taken on a "majority rule basis".

In court, Lydon said he rejected that deal, likening it to "slave labour".

The singer said the band member agreement (BMA) had never been adhered to and that requests for licences had previously been subject to individual members' vetoes.

However, a judge ruled on Monday that the contract was valid and active, and that the majority of the band could overrule any individual member's veto.

The judge, Sir Anthony Mann, also noted that Mr Lydon "had actually signed away his power to control the use of music rights" to publishing and music companies such as Warner Chappell Music and BMG.

Lydon retained "only qualified rights of approval which could be overridden if he was being unreasonable", the judge said.

"It may be that those companies, for their own reasons, chose to seek his permission from time to time, but ultimately they could act as they saw fit."

In a joint statement after the ruling, Jones and Cook told the Press Association: "We welcome the court's ruling in this case. It brings clarity to our decision-making and upholds the band members' agreement on collective decision-making.

"It has not been a pleasant experience, but we believe it was necessary to allow us to move forward and hopefully work together in the future with better relations."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Sex Pistols L-R: Steve Jones John Lydon, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook, pictured in 2002

The TV drama, simply called Pistol, began filming in March. It is described as a six-part series based on Jones's 2016 memoir, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol.

It is being directed by Slumdog Millionaire's Danny Boyle who, according to court documents, previously persuaded Lydon to let him use the Sex Pistols' music in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

However, Lydon's lawyer claimed the show, which is being made by Disney for its FX channel, would portray the singer in "a hostile and unflattering light".

Addressing the court last month, Lydon said: "I care very much about this band and its reputation and its quality control and I will always have a say if I think anything is being done to harm or damage [it]."

Lawyers for Mr Cook and Mr Jones argued there should not be any dispute about whether the agreement allows licensing decisions to be made "by a majority" and said Mr Lydon was in breach of the BMA by refusing to provide his consent.

'Difficult relationships'

The Sex Pistols formed in 1975, releasing singles such as Anarchy In The UK and Pretty Vacant, before splitting up in 1978. But they have performed live shows together a number of times since then, most recently in 2008.

In his written judgement, handed down remotely on Monday, Mr Justice Mann noted that: "Relationships between band members have always been strained, even going back to the days when the band was performing.

"Mr Lydon has not shrunk from describing his difficult relationships with the other members... and that has persisted even through their comeback tours in the 1990s and 2000s. It persists today."

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