Legal feud over Sex Pistols' song rights begins in UK court

·2-min read
Former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon -- alias Johnny Rotten -- is against licensing the group's music for a TV series

A legal battle between members of the ground-breaking 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols over use of the group's songs in a drama series about their lives began in London's High Court on Thursday.

The band's former guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook are suing singer John Lydon -- known to the world as the Sex Pistols' sneering, ginger-haired frontman Johnny Rotten -- for the use of the group's back catalogue in the show.

The six-part series, "Pistol", which is being developed by Disney and directed by Oscar-winning British director Danny Boyle, has reignited longstanding feuds among surviving members of the band, which formed in 1975 and formally disbanded three years later.

Though their time playing together was short-lived, with the exception of a series of sporadic reunions, the band had a huge impact on popular music over the succeeding decades, reinventing rock in their own indignant punk image with songs like "Anarchy in the UK" and "God Save the Queen".

Lydon has said he is not prepared to approve licences needed to use the music in the films -- based on Jones' memoir "Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol" -- unless ordered to by the court and feels he has been maligned by the other Sex Pistols.

In an April Sunday Times article, Lydon said he'd been put "in a corner like a rat" and was up against some "corporations that just want to take over".

In court, Edmund Cullen, representing Jones and Cook, called the relationship between the former band members "bitter and fractious" and explained efforts had been made to resolve similar disagreements through consensus in the past.

He argued under the terms of a band agreement made in 1998, decisions regarding licensing requests could be determined on a "majority rules basis", though Lydon has said licences cannot be granted without his consent.

Cullen also said in written evidence that Lydon was the only holdout over the use of the songs, with original band member Glen Matlock, who left the band in 1977, and the estate of Sid Vicious, who died in 1979, supporting the licensing.

Mark Cunningham QC, representing Lydon, said in written arguments his client believes the memoir the film is based on "depicts him in a hostile and unflattering light".

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