Copyright row erupts over late Sex Pistols manager's memoir

Copyright row erupts over late Sex Pistols manager's memoir

A copyright row has erupted over an unpublished autobiography of late Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren.

The Estate of McLaren is prepared to take legal action against an independent publisher to secure the withdrawal of the punk rock mogul's unpublished memoir from prospective sale, according to its legal representatives.

Malcolm McLaren: The Autobiography is listed for pre-order sale on Amazon by UK-based independent publisher Red Planet, which specialises in "the people and music the we’d like to read about". The book, set to be released in October, is described as having been co-authored by McLaren with music writer Barry Cain during the 1980s when the performer was "at his anarchic peak, riding high on his reputation as a pop svengali". 

However McLaren's Estate, which is managed by Young Kim, McLaren's girlfriend for the last 12 years of his life, is willing to fight a legal battle to prevent the book from hitting shelves, arguing that neither Cain or his publisher Red Planet own the copyright to legally be able to sell the title.

David Hooper, a representative of Howard Kennedy LLP, the firm acting for the Estate, said McLaren had embarked on the project in the 1980s and had employed Cain in an editorial role to transcribe tapes recorded by McLaren. However, McLaren "lost interest in the project", according to Hooper, and the Estate now considers the project to have "lapsed". Not only this, Hooper said there is a written agreement outlining the business arrangement and assignation of copyright.

"It was envisaged there was going to be a book in October 1980 and that didn't happen," Hooper said. "The project disappeared and in 2010 Malcolm died whereupon Barry Cain decided it might be good to try and resurrect it.

"The Estate of Malcolm McClaren hasn't consented to the book ... He [Cain] can write a biography, but the Estate of Malcolm McLaren say the rights in the recordings belong to Malcolm McClaren. All the other chap was doing - he had very limited rights - was to edit it and transcribe it and to tidy it up, but the copyright was with Malcolm McClaren and subsequently with his Estate. They [Cain and his publisher] don't have the right to produce this book." 

Red Planet has refrained from offering assurances to the Estate not to publish, Hooper said. Instead, according to Hooper, the publisher has said it will give 28 days' notice ahead of publication and seek mediation in the meantime. If the firm does send a letter of its intent to publish, Howard Kennedy LLP has promised to make a claim for copyright infringement.   

Red Planet c.e.o. Mark Neeter declined to comment extensively on the matter but released the following statement to The Bookseller: "There is currently a dispute and we are anticipating that it will be sorted out in an amicable way as Barry Cain believes Mr McLaren would have wished."

McLaren, who died in 2010 after a long battle with cancer, aged 64, came to public attention in 1976 as the manager of the Sex Pistols. He also managed artists including Adam Ant and Boy George. He opened a boutique with British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood on Kings Road in 1971 and their son, Joe Corré, founded lingerie retailer Agent Provocateur.

Constable signed an "authorised" Malcolm McLaren biography by Paul Gorman in 2015, promising to draw on "a vast array of first-hand sources from within his inner circle" while charting McLaren’s upbringing and experiences as an art school student in London, his opening with Vivienne Westwood of fashion boutiques in the 1970s and 1980s, his management of musicians and emergence as a visual artist in the 21st century. Contributors are said to include family members and childhood friends, as well as the likes of Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Rotten. It was originally slated for a 2016 publication; the Amazon listing now says the book is due out March 2019.