Former Sex Pistols win legal battle against John Lydon over use of music

Frontman known as Johnny Rotten had objected to use of material in new series

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, has lost a legal battle against other former members of the Sex Pistols. Photograph: Ian West/PA Wire

Former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon on Monday lost a legal battle to prevent other members of the punk rock band from using the group's music in a planned television series about its rise in the 1970s.

A judge in England's High Court ruled that Lydon, who performed in the band as Johnny Rotten, could be outvoted by other former band members under the terms of an agreement they reached in 1998.

Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook brought the case to force Lydon (65) to allow songs recorded by the band to be used in the series. It is based on Jones's memoirs and is being directed by Danny Boyle, whose films include Slumdog Millionaire.

In a ruling on Monday, Sir Anthony Mann found the pair were entitled to invoke "majority voting rules" against the ex-singer in relation to the use of Sex Pistols material in the series, under the terms of the band member agreement.


The judge rejected claims by Lydon’s lawyer that the majority vote had reduced the singer to “some sort of servile state”, and said it was in fact “relatively straightforward”.

The series, called Pistol, and which is being made by Disney, is scheduled to air next year.

Cook and Jones's claim was against Mr Lydon alone, but was supported by original band member Glen Matlock, who was replaced by Sid Vicious, and representatives of the estate of Vicious, who died in February 1979.

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.

Lydon told The Sunday Times in April that he had been excluded from the project and said: “If you put me in a corner like a rat, I’m going to go for your throat. I’m up against here some corporations that just want to take over.” – Reuters/PA