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High Court hands down judgment in the high-profile Sex Pistols case where both sides of the dispute were represented by barristers from Maitland Chambers

Judgments, Media & Entertainment

23 August 2021

The High Court has handed down judgment in a high-profile entertainment case between members of the Sex Pistols. Both sides of the dispute were represented by barristers from Maitland Chambers.

The Claimants, Steve Jones and Paul Cook (respectively, the band’s guitarist and drummer), were represented by Edmund Cullen QC, leading Edward Granger. The First Defendant, John Lydon (the band’s frontman, and professionally known as “Johnny Rotten”) was represented by Mark Cunningham QC (leading Amanda Michaels from Hogarth Chambers).

By their claim, the Claimants asserted that a majority-rules agreement governed intra-band decision-making regarding the grant of licences for the use of the band’s music and certain other assets. By reference to that agreement, the Claimants sought an order requiring Mr Lydon to consent to the use of music from the band’s album “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” in a forthcoming television series directed by Danny Boyle. The series is based on Mr Jones’s memoir, and it is due to air in Spring 2022.

Mr Lydon contended that the Claimants were estopped from relying on the majority-rules agreement in light of the manner in which band members had conducted themselves in relation to historic licence requests.

The proceedings were expedited on account of the importance of the band’s music to the television series, which at the time of the order for expedition was in production and incurring significant daily costs.

Following a seven-day trial, during which all living members of the band gave live evidence, Sir Anthony Mann (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) has given judgment for the Claimants. The Judge found that the Claimants are entitled to rely on the majority-rules agreement and that the events on which Mr Lydon relied did not give rise to the alleged estoppel. A copy of the judgment can be found here.

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