Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten LOSES High Court fight with former bandmates Steve Jones and Paul Cook

Two former Sex Pistols have won a High Court battle with ex-frontman Johnny Rotten over the use of the punk band’s songs in a new TV series. 

Former drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones sued ex-singer Rotten, real name John Lydon, to allow their songs to be used in TV drama Pistol, directed by Danny Boyle.

The six-part series, which is being made by Disney and is due to air next year, is based on a 2016 memoir by Mr Jones called Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol. The TV deal is expected to land Mr Cook and Mr Jones £5 million each.  

During a week-long hearing at the High Court in London, they argued that, under the terms of a band member agreement (BMA) made in 1998, decisions regarding licensing requests can be determined on a ‘majority rules basis’. 

Mr Lydon, who has previously told the Sunday Times he thinks the series is the ‘most disrespectful s*** I’ve ever had to endure’, argued that licences cannot be granted without his consent.

However, in a ruling on Monday, Sir Anthony Mann found that Mr Cook and Mr Jones were entitled to invoke ‘majority voting rules’ against the ex-singer. 

The Sex Pistols were formed in 1975 and disbanded in 1978. The Sex Pistols series is being made for the US based FX TV Channel, part of the Disney network

The Sex Pistols, pictured in 2002, from left to right; Steve Jones, John Lydon, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook

The Sex Pistols, pictured in 2002, from left to right; Steve Jones, John Lydon, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook

Finding that Mr Lydon must have been aware of the effect of the band member agreement (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 will have been explained to him and he will have understood its effects.

‘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.’

In a joint statement after the ruling, Steve Jones and Paul Cook said: ‘We welcome the court’s ruling in this case.

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, arriving at the Rolls Building at the High Court, London in July

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, arriving at the Rolls Building at the High Court, London in July

‘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.’

Earlier, Mr Lydon’s lawyers told the court that the agreement had never been used and that he considers it a ‘nuclear button’ for the claimants and their manager, Anita Camerata, to ‘impose their wishes’ on him.

They said he had a ‘deep-felt and passionate aversion to becoming a ‘prisoner’ of a hostile majority’ and in his evidence to the court, Mr Lydon said the agreement ‘smacks of some kind of slave labour’.

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 is in breach of the BMA by refusing to provide his consent.

They also said the court could not accept his evidence as true because it was a ‘straightforward lie’ and he could not ‘genuinely have believed the agreement was never effective’.

They told the court Mr Cook and Mr Jones’ claim is against Mr Lydon alone, and that original band member Glen Matlock, who was replaced by Sid Vicious, and representatives of the estate of Vicious, who died in February 1979, supported their position.

The Sex Pistols were formed in 1975 and disbanded in 1978, but have performed live shows together a number of times since then, most recently in 2008.

The Sex Pistols series is being made for the US based FX TV Channel, part of the Disney network.

Based on guitarist Steve Jones’ 2018 memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, the supporting cast also includes Sydney Chandler as Chrissie Hynde and Emma Appleton as Nancy Spungen.

Offering a fascinating new perspective on one of rock’s greatest ever stories, Pistol moves from West London’s council estates, to Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s notorious Kings Road SEX shop, to the international controversy that came with the release of Pistols album Never Mind the B******s.

The drama will focus on the band's rise to fame in the late 1970s, shocking the establishment with their wild behaviour (pictured in 1977)

The drama will focus on the band’s rise to fame in the late 1970s, shocking the establishment with their wild behaviour (pictured in 1977) 

Their single God Save the Queen was banned by the BBC and reached Number 1 on the UK’s NME chart, but appeared at Number 2 on the Official UK Singles chart, leading to accusations that the song was purposely kept off the top spot.

Director Danny Boyle has had an acclaimed TV and movie career, with his 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire being nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight, including the Academy Award for Best Director.

In 2012, the filmmaker was the artistic director for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. He was subsequently offered a knighthood as part of the New Year Honours but declined.

In January, Nick Grad, President, Original Programming, FX Entertainment, said in a statement: ‘It’s great to be back in business with Danny Boyle, an exceptional artist responsible for so many great feature films and TV series.’

He added: ‘Steve Jones was at the centre of the storm that shook the rock establishment and we’re thrilled to have Danny and the rest of the creative team tell his story as a member of one of music’s most notorious bands – the Sex Pistols.’

‘Imagine breaking into the world of The Crown and Downton Abbey with your mates and screaming your songs and your fury at all they represent,’ added Danny. ‘This is the moment that British society and culture changed forever.’

‘It is the detonation point for British street culture…where ordinary young people had the stage and vented their fury and their fashion…and everyone had to watch & listen…and everyone feared them or followed them.’

‘The Sex Pistols. At its centre was a young charming illiterate kleptomaniac – a hero for the times – Steve Jones, who became in his own words, the 94th greatest guitarist of all time. This is how he got there.’

Starring role: The supporting cast also includes Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams as punk icon Jordan

Famous: Jordan pictured in 1977

The supporting cast includes Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams (L) as punk icon Jordan (R in 1977)

Exciting: Iris Law will follow in her father Jude's acting footsteps by making her screen debut as Soo Catwoman in Danny's Pistols drama

Iconic look: Soo Lucas, who dubbed herself Soo Catwoman, is known for her trademark haircut which she created in 1976 to look like she had cat ears

Iris Law (L) will follow in her father Jude’s acting footsteps by making her screen debut as Soo Catwoman (R) in the Sex Pistols drama

The actors who play band members Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the infamous punk band have been filming across London since March.

Scenes recreated have included the group outside Buckingham Palace when they attempted to promote God Save Queen, and the ‘winter of discontent’ when refuse collectors went on strike and bin bags piled up in the streets. 

Lead singer Johnny Rotten is played by actor Ansoon Boon while Sid Vicious is being played by Louis Partridge. Jacob Cook takes on the role of drummer Paul Cook while Toby Wallace plays Jones.

Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams is almost unrecognisable as model Pamela Rooke, whose signature style of ripped fishnets, dominatrix heels and raccoon-like eye make-up came to define the era of punk music.

Boyle has described the Sex Pistols emergence in the mid-70s as the moment that British society and culture changed for ever.  

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