31 January 2024

In the case of Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited v Noel Redding Estate Limited & Anor, Sony Music failed to strike out a long-running claim over recording and performer rights for 60s trio The Jimi Hendrix Experience, made up of Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell.

The case concerns three massive studio albums released before the death in 1970 of guitarist Jimi Hendrix: “Are You Experienced?”, “Axis: Bold as Love” and “Electric Ladyland”, including seminal hits such as Foxy Lady, Purple Haze and Hey Joe.

Bass player Noel Redding died in 2003 and drummer Mitch Mitchell in 2008. The claimants, on behalf of the musicians’ estates, argued that they now owned a share of the sound recording copyrights and performers’ rights in the three big-selling albums.

Sony said the worldwide copyright of the sound recordings was owned by Experience Hendrix LLC and Authentic Hendrix LLC and claimed Redding and Mitchell signed releases, assignments and agreed not to sue Hendrix’s estate as part of a settlement in New York after Hendrix’s death, when they claimed 25% each of the net income generated by the singer’s estate based on an alleged oral agreement between the three bandmates.

Sony argued that the settlement terms released the Hendrix estate from any and all liability and it stopped Redding and Mitchell - and their estates - from claiming now, as they had already been paid.

The estates of Redding and Mitchell previously argued that the performance rights were new rights created by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and so the releases, agreed around 1970, did not apply to them. Sony argued that provisions in the 1988 Act and its subsequent amendments had made clear it did not upset any previous agreements or arrangements.

Describing Hendrix as ‘arguably the greatest rock guitarist ever’, Mr Justice Michael Green found the copyright and performers’ property rights claims should go to trial and that ‘the claimants have a more than arguable case that the original consent does not include consent to the present exploitation of their performers’ property rights…The claimants have a real prospect of succeeding’.

So the door has been left open for performers to claim for more than they’d originally agreed or settled with, especially if they signed away consent and rights before the 1988 Act. It is possible there will be a flurry of 60s, 70s and 80s music acts having a good look at the Sony/Hendrix dispute and wondering if they too have, as Mr Justice Green put it, “a real prospect of succeeding”.

If you have any questions about rights in your music or other intellectual property, please contact our Legal 500 Recommended Lawyer Brian Levine at or telephone 01935 846000.