An appeals court in London has declined to pause a lawsuit filed against Sony Music by the estates of two members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The major said that the UK legal battle should be put on hold while related litigation in New York goes through the motions. The judge considering Sony’s most recent motion to that effect concedes that New York law is relevant to old contracts signed by the former Jimi Hendrix collaborators, but insists that those agreements are only part of the UK-based dispute.
That dispute involves companies representing the estates of Hendrix’s two former bandmates, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. On the other side is the Hendrix estate and its distribution partner, which is where Sony Music comes in.
The Redding and Mitchell companies claim that they control rights in relation to the Jimi Experience Hendrix recordings catalogue which are being infringed by the Hendrix estate and Sony.
The latter parties counter that, after Hendrix’s death in 1970, both Redding and Mitchell signed agreements in which they gave up any claims to rights and royalties stemming from the Jimi Hendrix Experience in return for “significant monetary consideration”.
With the dispute underway, the Hendrix estate and Sony went legal first, asking a New York court to confirm that those 1970s agreements are still in force. The Redding and Mitchell companies then subsequently filed their own lawsuit with the courts in London.
Sony argues that the UK case very much depends on the 1970s agreements and the New York law that governs them. Hence it thinks that the UK case should be paused until there is a ruling on the other side of the Atlantic. However, the major has been struggling to convince the UK courts of that argument.
Having taken the matter to the appeals court, Sony’s legal rep insisted last month that “this is a case where the New York court should be given due deference to proceed with and try the issue about the meaning and effect of the [1970s agreements]”.
However, the Redding and Mitchell companies countered that “there’s something unattractive about the New York court deciding the copyright claim of citizens of the UK purely because of the convenience of the US parties”.
According to Law360, in his new ruling, judge Edwin Johnson acknowledges that the 1970s agreements are “a central aspect in the dispute”, but adds that New York law is only relevant to those agreements and “not to the entirety of the claims made in the action or, as it seems to me, to the entirety of the claim”.
Johnson doesn’t completely agree with the judge who previously declined Sony’s bid to pause the lawsuit, especially around the potential impact of UK and European law on the agreements.
However, he nevertheless concludes that as the parties are UK-based, the claims of the Redding and Mitchell companies are made under English law, and relate to actions that occurred in the UK, the case should be able to proceed independently of the New York litigation.
Sony Music is yet to respond.