A Far Cry From Anarchy: Johnny Rotten Loses Court Battle With Sex Pistols Over New Disney-Made TV Drama

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

On Monday, after a long and heated battle, John Lydon—aka Johnny Rotten—lost a High Court case levied against him by his Sex Pistol bandmates Paul Cook and Steve Jones. The topic? The usage of Sex Pistols songs in a new Disney mini-series called Pistol, directed by Danny Boyle. 

“I care very much about this band and its reputation and its quality control and I will always have a say if I think anything is being done to harm or damage [it],” Lydon said during his defense back in July.

The dispute arose when Lydon vetoed a proposal to allow the band’s songs to be used in the series (which, itself, is based on Jones’ book, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol). In April, he gave an interview to the Sunday Times explaining that he felt the series depicted him in an unflattering way, failed to honor the history of the band, and was made without his consent.

Unfortunately for Lydon, though, the members of the Sex Pistols signed a band member agreement (BMA) in 1998 that states that the band could override any particular member’s veto with a majority vote. Outnumbered, Lydon’s veto was overturned… and his continued refusal to agree to the project is what ultimately led Cook and Jones to seek legal action. For his part, Lydon claimed he doesn’t even remember agreeing to the BMA in the first place. 

“I don’t want anything I’m involved in to victimize any one of us,” he argued. “It would destroy the whole point and purpose of the band and so I don’t understand the BMA… I don’t remember signing it. You can’t let your history be rewritten for us by a complete stranger with no interest in it. This is my life here. This is my history. I didn’t write these songs [for them] to be given off to nonsense.”

Nevertheless, Lydon’s arguments were in vain and he lost the case. In his ruling, Sir Anthony Mann pointed out that not only had Lydon signed the BMA, but he also “signed away his power to control the use of music rights” to publishers, meaning that he only had “qualified rights of approval which could be overridden if he was being unreasonable.” 

Glen Matlock, the only other surviving member of the band, expressed his support for Jones and Cook, as did the estate of Sid Vicious. The series is set to air sometime in 2022 via FX, a subsidiary of Disney.


Watch the video for “Holidays In The Sun” by Sex Pistols below:

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