The estate of Jimi Hendrix has filed a lawsuit claiming that the estates representing his late Jimi Hendrix Experience bandmates, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, do not have the right to sue them for copyright claims.
Dorothy Weber, the lawyer representing Experience Hendrix, LLC and Sony Music Entertainment, filed the suit on Tuesday (January 18) in the US District Court in the Southern District of New York.
According to Rolling Stone, it comes after a letter Sony Music received in December from British lawyer, Lawrence Abramson, in which he claimed the label owed Redding and Mitchell’s estates performance royalties for roughly 3billion streams of the Experience’s songs.
Abramson didn’t specify an amount they were looking for but did say that “such streaming figures and sales is estimated to be in the millions of pounds”. He added: “Ignoring this letter may lead our clients to commence proceedings against you and may increase your liability for costs.”
The letter prompted Weber to take acton on behalf of Experience Hendrix and Sony, who claimed they were unable to be sued by the defendants because both Experience members previously signed waivers.
Weber has alleged that Mitchell signed a document in September 1974 releasing the Hendrix estate from legal claims and agreeing not to sue the Hendrix estate. She’s claimed that Redding, too, signed a similar document in April 1973. Both musicians were allegedly compensated for signing the documents.
The estates of both Mitchell and Redding have claimed they are no longer bound to those documents, whereas the Hendrix estate disagrees and has said they are still enforceable. The Hendrix estate wants a judge to issue a declaratory judgment saying that those contracts are still valid.
“Any claim of ownership by the Defendants was time barred decades ago,” Weber said in her filing, adding that she wants a judge to declare that the rhythm section’s estates are making claims without any legal merit.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up in June 1969 after Redding quit the band. Mitchell continued to play intermittently with him until his death in May 2003.
Hendrix died in September 1970. His father, James Allen “Al” Hendrix, was heir to Jimi’s estate and later formed Experience Hendrix with his daughter, Janie, who has continued to run the company following Al’s death in 2002.
Redding left his estate to his partner, Deborah McNaughton, who turned it over to her sisters after she died. Mitchell died in November 2008, leaving his daughter, Aysha, to inherit his estate. The rhythm section’s heirs entered into contracts with new estate managers last August.
The lawyer representing Redding and Mitchell’s estates has claimed the musicians “both died in relative poverty having never received their true entitlement from their works, performances, and founding membership of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.”
Meanwhile, two classic Jimi Hendrix guitars have been recreated by Gibson.
Hendrix’s 1969 Flying V and 1967 SG Custom have been made available for fans to buy, with both models looking and sounding like the guitars Hendrix actually played.