On Tuesday in a Manhattan federal court, the Hendrix estate along with Sony Music requested a legal declaration “that they owe nothing to the estates of David Noel Redding and John Graham “Mitch” Mitchell,” Hendrix’s bandmates in the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Formed in 1966 with Redding as bassist and Mitchell as drummer, the Jimmy Hendrix Experience would go on to be one of the most influential acts in music history. They released several hits including “All Along The Watchtower,” which peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard 100.
Representatives from the families of Redding and Mitchell sent a cease-and-desist order in December “claiming to own a stake in Hendrix’s music and threatening to sue for infringement,” but Tuesday’s suit says those claims were false because the duo voluntarily signed over their rights immediately following Hendrix’s death in 1970.
According to the report, Redding and Mitchell signed “broad general releases” and agreements not to sue in exchange for “significant monetary consideration” that they received at the time, the Hendrix estate and Sony stated in the suit, suggesting that the settlements “specifically” dealt with the band’s catalog.
Sony became involved in the dispute because it has the exclusive licensee of Hendrix’s music, which is owned by Hendrix Experience LLC and Authentic Hendrix LLC.
“For almost half a century, there has never been any claim by defendants or their successors … concerning the copyright ownership, exploitation of these recordings by plaintiffs, or payments of royalties,” the Hendrix estate and Sony wrote.
Back in December, Sony confirmed receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Noel Redding Estate Ltd. and Mitch Mitchell Estate Ltd., arguing “the decades-old agreements were unenforceable and threatening to sue for copyright infringement in British court.”
Both companies alleged they are owed “millions of pounds” in royalties, dating back to 1973.
The lawsuit falls under the “declaratory judgment action,” which means that the Hendrix estate and Sony aren’t suing for damages, but seeking a ruling that they’re innocent in the dispute. Such cases are often filed as cautionary measures when a company believes they’ve been falsely accused in a copyright lawsuit.