Jimi Hendrix Court Battle to Be Fought In London Rather Than New York, Judge Says
The closely-watched dispute will resolve who gets control of the rights to music created by Jimi Hendrix Experience.
A transatlantic legal battle between Jimi Hendrix’s estate and his former bandmates is going to be fought primarily in London for now, after a U.S. federal judge ruled that she would defer to the British courts.
The two dueling camps — Hendrix’s estate and Sony Music on one side and the estates of bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell on the other — have each filed their own lawsuit on opposite sides of the Atlantic over control of the rights to music created by the trio’s Jimi Hendrix Experience.
After a year of jockeying over which case should take precedence, a Manhattan federal judge ruled Tuesday that it should be Redding and Mitchell’s U.K. lawsuit. She pointed out that the English litigation had kicked off nearly a month earlier than the American case, and that a British appeals court had already ruled that their case could move forward.
“The litigation centers on estate matters in England, general release documents located in England, and copyright and intellectual property rights under English law,” Judge Ronnie Abrams wrote. “It can thus hardly be said that the courts of England are not an adequate forum.”
Hendrix teamed up with Redding and Mitchell in 1966 to form the Experience, and the trio went on to release a number of now-iconic songs before Hendrix’s death, including “All Along The Watchtower,” which spent nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 and peaked at No. 20.
The current fight kicked off in 2021, when Redding and Mitchell’s heirs sent a letter in the U.K. claiming they own a stake in Hendrix’s music and arguing that they’re owed millions in royalties. The Hendrix estate and Sony responded a month later by filing their own lawsuit in New York federal court, arguing that Redding and Mitchell signed away their rights shortly after the legendary rocker died in 1970, in exchange for “significant monetary consideration.”
But for over a year, the two sides have been duking it out over which case should proceed first. The Hendrix estate and Sony say the contractual releases, which will play a central role in the case, were all signed in New York as part of probate proceedings in that state. But Redding and Mitchell’s heirs have claimed the estate is merely trying to “circumvent” English courts to win a friendly judge in America.
“Plaintiffs are merely trying to win the race to the courthouse because they apparently believe this court will be more sympathetic to their claim than the English court before which it is now pending,” the Redding and Mitchell heirs wrote last year. “Such blatant forum shopping is not entitled to any deference.”
Last month, a London appeals court ruled that the U.K. case could proceed, regardless of what happened in New York. That ruling said that the New York releases might indeed end up being the “central aspect in the dispute,” but that the British case also dealt with broader issues of English law.
And on Tuesday, Judge Abrams cited that April ruling as a key factor in why she had decided that the New York case could wait until the British case was resolved.
“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,” the judge wrote. “This action is hereby stayed pending the resolution of defendants’ action in England.”
Following the ruling, an attorney for the Hendrix estate 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.” An attorney for Redding and Mitchell did not immediately return a request for comment.
Read the entire ruling here: