Punk News

Steve Jones and Paul Cook Win Legal Fight With John Lydon

Judge rules against the former Sex Pistols frontman, giving Disney access to the band’s songs for the upcoming Danny Boyle Directed TV drama.

Judge Anthony Mann ruled yesterday that songs by the Sex Pistols can be used in a forthcoming TV series despite the opposition of former frontman John Lydon.

Ex-Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook sued their former bandmate after he tried to block the music’s use in “Pistol,” a Disney-backed series based on a memoir by Jones.

During hearings at the High Court last month, Lydon said that his “heart and soul” opposed the music’s use in a show he considered to be “nonsense.” He has previously expressed concerns the series will show him in a negative light.

On the set of the Pretty Vacant video shoot L-R Sid Vicious, Paul Cook, Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) and Steve Jones, June 1st 1977. Photo: Virginia Turbett

Lydon said the songs could not be licensed without his consent, but Cook and Jones claimed that an agreement dating from 1998 allowed a majority decision.

The Judge agreed the pair were entitled to invoke “majority voting rules” as outlined in the band agreement.

Finding that Lydon must have been aware of the effect of the BMA, Sir Anthony said: “Mr Lydon must have been fully advised about the BMA and its consequences.

“On his side, he had an English lawyer, a US attorney and his manager… it is impossible to believe that he did not know what its effect was, and I reject the suggestion made by him that he did not really know or appreciate its effect.

“That piece of evidence was a convenient contrivance. It is highly likely that, even if he did not read it himself, it would have been explained to him, and he will have understood its effects.”

John Lydon and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols in 2006 - John Sciulli
Steve Jones and John Lydon in slightly happier days in 2006. Photo: John Sciulli

The judge went on: “The inherent likelihood of that is reinforced by his own evidence about his concerns to protect the Sex Pistols’ legacy.

“A man with those concerns, which I accept he had, would expect to be made to understand important documents that he was signing. He would not have been cavalier about that.”

“Mr. Lydon has not shrunk from describing his difficult relationships with the other members — difficult in different ways with different members — and that has persisted even through their comeback tours in the 1990s and 2000s,” the judge said. “And it persists today.”

“I reject the suggestion made by him that he did not really know or appreciate its effect,” the judge said.

Cook and Jones welcomed the ruling. They said of the court battle, “This 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.”

Pistol is being made for Disney subsidiary FX and is directed by Danny Boyle, the Academy Award-winning director of “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

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