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Sex Pistols In High Court As Lydon Blocks Music From Pistols TV Series

The Sex Pistols went to High Court yesterday as they fight each other over licencing their music to Danny Boyle‘s TV series, as the band’s lead singer attempts to block their music being used.

John Lydon is being sued by his bandmates after he refused to give permission for their hits to be used in ‘Pistol,’ the six-part mini-series based on Pistols guitarist Steve Jones‘ 2016 memoir Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol and is due to air on the Disney owned American streaming service FX next year.

Lydon is opposed to the Disney adaptation because he claims it is going ahead without his consultation or consent and previously said: “Poor old Johnny Rotten is the victim of Mickey Mouse”.

John Lydon and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols in 2006 - John Sciulli
John Lydon and Steve Jones in happier days in 2006 – John Sciulli

He told The Sunday Times in April: “It isn’t going to happen. Not without a huge, enormous fucking fight.”

The huge ‘fucking fight’ now seems to be in full flight with both sides brigining in big legal hitters.

Lydon has refused permission for the band’s songs to be used in the show, leading to this bitter High Court row erupting within the band over who controls the music.

A High Court judge has begun considering the legal action by Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook against Lydon.

A sneaky-peek image from Danny Boyle's Pistol. Left to right: Christian Lees as original bassist Glen Matlock, Anson Boon as singer John Lydon and Toby Wallace as guitarist Steve Jones. CR: Miya Mizuno/FX
A sneaky-peek image from Danny Boyle’s Pistol. Left to right: Christian Lees as original bassist Glen Matlock, Anson Boon as singer John Lydon and Toby Wallace as guitarist Steve Jones. CR: Miya Mizuno/FX

Jonesy and Cookie have said John’s refusal would see the end of the planned show, costing them all “very substantial losses.”

Their lawyers say a 1998 band agreement means their music – including hits ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Anarchy in the UK’ – can be licensed for use after a majority decision of the band and former bassist Sid Vicious’ estate.

However, refusing to give permission for the music to be included in the series, Lydon insists the decision must be unanimous and that he doesn’t want the band’s songs to be used.

Lydon’s UK barrister Mark Cunningham QC insisted “Mr Lydon is adamant that he will not give permission.

The Pistols are throwing legal punches at the UK’s highest court

“Mr Lydon is highly motivated about the use that is made of his musical compositions because he cares about how his music is used, and judgements about approval or refusal are made accordingly,” said the QC.

Edmund Cullen the QC, for Paul Cook and Steve says that as well as the loss of the licensing fees, the band will also lose renewed interest in their music likely after being featured in a TV series which could attract “huge new global audiences.”

Lydon’s QC, Mr Cunningham argues that the 1998 agreement is “unenforceable and ineffective” because the band has always operated on the basis that a unanimous decision must be taken before songs can be licensed for use.

sex pistols

He pointed to examples of refusal of licensing for the band’s material on the basis of a lack of unanimity, including knocking back a request for ‘Anarchy in the UK’ to be used in an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’.

No members of the band had ever relied on the terms of the agreement to push through a licensing request which another member had objected to, he said, showing that it had been “disavowed and abandoned.”

The case reached court today as lawyers argued about disclosure of evidence ahead of a full trial of the row in July.

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