Heirs of Jimi Hendrix’s bandmates sue Sony Music UK over copyright, streaming royalties

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Sony Music is facing a lawsuit from the heirs of Jimi Hendrix’s former bandmates – bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell – over an alleged copyright infringement, reports Variety.

As per Variety, the filing, in London’s High Court, follows an application for a legal declaration made by Sony Music and the Hendrix estate in a Manhattan federal court last month that would pre-emptively absolve them of all legal claims.

Hendrix had shot to fame in the 1960s after he joined forces with British musicians Redding and Mitchell to form the ‘Jimi Hendrix Experience’. Then in 1969, the group disbanded. However, Mitchell reunited with Hendrix months before the latter’s death in August of 1970.

Currently, Redding and Mitchell’s heirs are claiming their stake in the band’s music. Earlier this year in January, Sony Music and Hendrix’s estate filed their own claim in a New York court where they asked a judge to declare the absence of breach of any copyright. While Hendrix’s estate (comprising Experience Hendrix LLC and Authentic Hendrix LLC) owns Hendrix’s musical catalogue and his name and image rights, Sony is the exclusive licensee of Hendrix’s music.

The Hendrix estate and Sony have made a claim that Redding and Mitchell signed away any rights to the music in the early 1970s following Hendrix’s death at 27. However, as per a pre-action letter (accessed by Variety) sent by a lawyer for Redding and Mitchell’s estates to Sony Music in the United Kingdom, the heirs dispute saying the contracts do not “operate as a bar to our clients’ claims.”

The reasons furnished by them state that Sony was not a party to the contract. The letter adds that streaming rights or digital media revenue are out of the ambit of all the signed documents or contracts, something that “none of the parties would have been able to foresee or contemplate” at the time they were signed.

As per Redding and Mitchell’s lawyer’s estimates, there have been 3 billion streams of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s music for which the total amount of revenue equates to “millions of pounds” per year. He also mentioned that as per the nature of contracts signed back in the day, profits were to be divided up three ways, where Hendrix claimed 50 per cent while Redding and Mitchell each took 25 per cent.

The lawsuit filed in the UK seeks a declaration of copyright ownership in the musical works, sound recordings and performers rights (each of which are a separate right invested in the work). It also demands a clarification surrounding copyright infringement and, if there has been one, then it claims damages as well as an account of profits plus interest on that figure and legal costs.

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