More than half a century after Jimi Hendrix moved to England to form rock’s preeminent transatlantic power trio with a couple of Brits, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. Now Billboard reports that a Manhattan federal judge decided Tuesday that England will also be the starting place for a lawsuit that Hendrix’s estate (Experience Hendrix, LLC) and Sony Music filed against Redding’s and Mitchell’s estates last year. The whole idea behind the lawsuit was to stop Redding’s and Mitchell’s heirs from seeking to expand their copyright claims; it was a lawsuit about lawsuits.
Since the Redding and Mitchell estates filed a suit of their own in the U.K. a month before Experience Hendrix and Sony — and a British appeals court OK’d it to move forward — Judge Ronnie Abrams ruled that the claims to go through the U.K. courts first.
In December 2021, British attorney Lawrence Abramson sent a letter to Sony, claiming that Mitchell’s and Redding’s estates were owed performance royalties for some 3 billion streams — “such streaming figures and sales is estimated to be in the millions of pounds,” he wrote. So Experience Hendrix and Sony responded by filing a suit in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York in January, asking for “a declaratory judgment of ownership and non-infringement” — essentially for a judge to say, “Stand down because everything’s above board.” The rhythm section’s heirs ended up filing a lawsuit in the U.K. in February.
Experience Hendrix and Sony’s backup were contracts that Redding and Mitchell signed in 1973 and ’74, promising not to sue the Hendrix estate and release it from legal claims. The heirs to the rhythm section, however, say that those docs no longer bind them — and the veracity of that claim is essentially what each side’s lawyers have been disputing for the last year as they decide on the best venue for their respective lawsuits.
“The London High Court’s lengthy decision finding jurisdiction over the English action underscores the appropriateness of that forum, and the merits of that action are now being actively litigated in English courts,” Judge Abrams wrote. “This action is hereby stayed pending the resolution of defendants’ action in England.”
“I think it is fair to see that we were pleased, but not altogether surprised, at the decision,” Abramson, lawyer for the Mitchell and Redding estates, tells Rolling Stone. “The case will now be proceeding in the U.K. as we always expected that it would.”
An attorney for Experience Hendrix told Billboard, “We’re going to pursue our rights in the U.K., and when the case in the UK is resolved, we’re going to pursue our rights in the U.S.”
The Jimi Hendrix Experience formed in 1966 and split in June 1969 when Redding quit. Mitchell continued playing with Hendrix off and on through Hendrix’s death in Sept. 1970. Redding died in May 2003, leaving his estate to his partner, Deborah McNaughton, whose sisters inherited the estate upon her death. Mitchell’s daughter, Aysha, inherited his estate when he died in Nov. 2008.