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Anarchy in UK court? Singer Johnny Rotten sued by ex-Sex Pistols

Johnny Rotten, whose real name is John Lydon, is refusing to grant permission to use the songs in an upcoming TV series about the anarchic punk icons.
\"The Public Image is Rotten\" Premiere - 2017 Tribeca Film Festival
John Lydon at New York City's Spring Studios in April 2017. Michael Loccisano / Getty Images file

LONDON — Two former members of the Sex Pistols are suing singer Johnny Rotten for the right to use the band's songs in an upcoming television series about the anarchic punk icons.

Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook want the songs to appear in "Pistol," a television series based on a memoir by Jones. Rotten, whose real name is John Lydon, has slammed the series as "disrespectful" and is refusing to grant permission to use the songs.

Edmund Cullen, lawyer for Jones and Cook, told a judge at the High Court in London on Thursday that the former bandmates have a "brittle and fractious" relationship.

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He said that, under the terms of a band agreement made in 1998, decisions regarding licensing requests could be determined on a "majority rules basis." Lydon, however, contends that licenses to use the music can't be granted without his consent.

Cullen said both the band's original bassist, Glen Matlock, and the estate of Matlock's replacement Sid Vicious supported the position of Cook and Jones. Vicious died in 1979, aged 21.

Lydon's lawyer, Mark Cunningham, said in written arguments that Jones's memoir depicted the band's singer "in a hostile and unflattering light," at one point describing him as "the annoying little brat with the great bone structure who's always asking for more."

Sid Vicious, Paul Cook, Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones performing as the Sex Pistols.Redferns / via Getty Images

The case is due to continue into next week.

Formed in London in 1975, the Sex Pistols energized and scandalized the British music scene with songs including "God Save the Queen" and "Anarchy in the U.K." They split in 1978 after releasing one album, but surviving members have reformed for several concerts since.

"Pistol" is due to be broadcast next year and is directed by Danny Boyle, the Academy Award-winning director of "Trainspotting" and "Slumdog Millionaire."