Jimi Hendrix's estate, Experience Hendrix, LLC, has preemptively sued the estates of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell – bassist and drummer of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, respectively – countering any future lawsuits in which the latter estates may attempt to claim historic royalties.
The lawsuit follows a letter received in December by Sony Music – through which The Experience's music is distributed – from British attorney Lawrence Abramson, which claimed the label owed the Redding and Mitchell estates performance royalties for around 3 billion streams of the band's material.
While Abramson did not include a monetary figure for the amount to be compensated, he noted that the number for “such streaming figures and sales is estimated to be in the millions of pounds”.
He also threatened: “Ignoring this letter may lead out clients to commence proceedings against you and may increase your liability for costs.”
In response, Dorothy Weber, the lawyer acting on behalf of Experience Hendrix and Sony, filed the preemptive lawsuit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Tuesday (January 18), writing: “[The] Defendants' [the Mitchell and Redding estates'] threats of suit have created a real and reasonable apprehension of liability on the part of the Plaintiffs [the Hendrix Estate and Sony Music].”
Weber's suit also claims that Redding and Mitchell both signed documents in 1973 and 1974, respectively, in which they released the Hendrix estate from legal claims and agreed not to sue the estate in the future. Both musicians were reportedly compensated for signing these. However, both the Redding and Mitchell estates claim these documents are no longer binding.
Weber added: “The threat of such suit by [the] Defendants is sufficiently immediate and real as of the date of this filing, to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment of ownership and non-infringement.”
Essentially, the Hendrix estate and Sony Music are seeking a judge to rule that no money is owed, that the two parties are not in any violation of any prior legal agreements or contracts, and that the documents signed by Redding and Mitchell in 1973 and 1974 are still valid.
Formed in 1966, The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed together until Redding's departure in 1969. Hendrix and Mitchell continued to work together until the Experience reunited in 1970, with Billy Cox on bass. The reunion was short-lived, however, due to the death of Hendrix in September 1970.
Upon his death, Hendrix's estate was inherited by his father, James Allen Hendrix, who created Experience Hendrix, LLC with his daughter Janie. She has run the estate since James Allen Hendrix's death in 2002.
When Redding died in 2003, he left his estate to his partner, Deborah McNaughton, who passed it to her sisters when she died. Upon his death in 2008, Mitchell left his estate to his daughter Aysha.
It is claimed by the lawyer representing Redding and Mitchell's estates that both musicians “died in relative poverty having never received their true entitlement from their works, performances, and founding membership of The Jimi Hendrix Experience”.
In Weber's lawsuit, she counters: “Neither Redding nor Mitchell ever asserted an ownership interest, or any other performers' rights, in the recordings.”