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Jimi Hendrix Lawsuit Headed To Trial After UK Court Says Bandmates Can Sue Sony Over Royalties

Mr. Nimbus | 01/29/2024

A contentious lawsuit over Jimi Hendrix’s music is going to trial, after a London judge ruled that the heirs of his former bandmates could continue to sue Sony Music over the rights to three classic albums.

The estates of bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell say they own a share of the rights to three albums created by the trio’s Jimi Hendrix Experience, and they’ve been battling in court for more than two years to prove it.

Sony had argued that the case should be dismissed because Redding and Mitchell both signed away their rights in the early 1970s shortly after Hendrix died, but a judge on London’s High Court ruled Monday that the dispute – over “arguably the greatest rock guitarist ever” — must be decided at trial.

“My overall conclusion is that the claims in respect of copyright and performers’ property rights survive and should go to trial,” Justice Michael Green wrote in his ruling, obtained by Billboard. The judge wrote that Redding and Mitchell’s heirs had “a real prospect of succeeding” on their argument that the decades-old releases “do not provide a complete defence” for Sony.

It’s unclear when the trial will take place. A rep for Sony did not immediately return a request for comment on the court’s decision. An attorney for the Hendrix estate, which is not formally a party to the U.K. case, did not immediately return a request for comment.

In a statement to Billboard, Redding and Mitchell’s attorneys said the ruling would mean “we can hopefully obtain some justice for the families” of the two musicians. “No one is denying that Jimi Hendrix was one of, if not, the greatest guitarist of all time. But he didn’t make his recordings alone, and they could not have achieved any success without the contributions of Noel and Mitch.”

Hendrix teamed up with Redding and Mitchell in 1966 to form the Experience, and the trio went on to release a number of now-iconic songs before Hendrix’s death, including “All Along The Watchtower,” which spent nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 and peaked at No. 20.

The current fight kicked off in 2021, when Redding and Mitchell’s heirs sent a letter in the U.K. claiming they own a stake in Hendrix’s music and arguing that they’re owed millions in royalties. Hendrix’s own estate and Sony responded a month later by preemptively suing in New York federal court, aiming to prove they were in sole control of the music. Redding and Mitchell’s heirs then filed their own case against Sony in British court.

The transatlantic dispute centers on agreements that Redding and Mitchell signed in New York in 1973 to resolve litigation after Hendrix died suddenly at the age of 27. In the settlement, the two men agreed not to sue Jimi’s estate and any record companies distributing his music in return for one-time payments — $100,000 paid to Redding and $247,500 to Mitchell.

Sony and the Hendrix estate have argued in court filings that those “broad releases” prohibit Redding and Mitchell’s heirs from making any legal claim to the band’s music. The heirs, on the other hand, say the two men died in poverty and that they’re legally entitled under U.K. law to a cut of the lucrative Hendrix Experience music they helped create.

On Monday, Justice Green did not rule on that core dispute, saying he “cannot decide those contentious issues” about the power of the release agreements signed by Redding and Mitchell. Instead, he ruled simply that there are “sustainable arguments on such issues that will have to be decided at a trial.”

In statement, a rep for the Redding and Mitchell estates said they looked forward to the trial. “Noel and Mitch died in penury despite being two thirds of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and owning the copyright in the recordings jointly with Jimi,” Edward Adams said. “We see our case as carrying a torch for Noel, in particular, who spent over three decades seeking justice.”

The trial will come after years of jockeying over whether the dispute should be heard first in American or British courts. In May, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the English litigation could take precedence, citing the fact that it had kicked off nearly a month earlier than the American case, and that a British appeals court had already ruled that their case could move forward. The U.S. case, filed in Manhattan federal court, is currently paused.

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus

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