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Music producer Michael Stokes is suing several major publishers in a copyright dispute that alleges his signature was forged and his rights stolen while he was incapacitated following a stroke.
Stokes, a Grammy-nominated producer, composer and musician who has worked with the likes of Prince, Tina Turner, Smokey Robinson and Whitney Houston, says a 2010 stroke left him unable to manage his music empire.
On Tuesday, he sued Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, The Bicycle Music Company, Kobalt Music Group, Concord Music Group and several subsidiaries in an effort to reclaim lost royalties.
“During the period of Mr. Stokes’ incapacity as such, on information and belief, Mr. Stokes’ name was forged on several chain of title documents, his copyrights and related interests thereby being effectively stolen from him, creating the false impression that Mr. Stokes’ copyrights and attendant rights in his music catalogs had been transferred to the former Music Publishing Company of America,” writes attorney Paul N. Philips in the complaint, which is posted below.
MPCA then transferred the rights to Bicycle, which was absorbed by Kobalt and Concord, according to the complaint. Stokes alleges the labels have been put on notice that he is the rightful owner, but still continue paying the companies that usurped his rights instead of him.
Philips tells The Hollywood Reporter that a “Good Samaritan” in the music industry who was familiar with Stokes’ work and discovered someone else was being paid on his copyrights brought the matter to the producer’s attention.
Stokes, 67, is suing for copyright infringement, conversion, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, unfair business practices, unjust enrichment and financial elder abuse. He’s asking the court for a declaration that his works have been infringed and an injunction barring defendants from collecting or distributing any funds deriving from his works, and he’s seeking either statutory damages or actual damages and disgorgement of profits plus compensatory and punitive damages.
Defendants have not yet responded to requests for comment.
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