Music producer Michael Stokes claims people have been profiting from his work.
Stokes, who has produced music for some of the biggest names in the industry like Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, and Patti LaBelle, is suing several major publishers in a copyright dispute claiming that his signature was forged and his rights were stolen while he was incapacitated after a stroke.
In his lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, he included Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, The Bicycle Music Company, Kobalt Music Group, Concord Music Group as parties that were a part of the alleged scam. “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,” attorney Paul N. Philips wrote in the complaint.
According to the document, MPCA then transferred the rights to Bicycle, which was then absorbed by Kobalt and Concord. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the 37-year-old said that the labels have been notified that the music rights actually belong to him; however, he is still paying the companies that took away his rights illegally. Phillips told THR that a “good Samaritan” in the music industry who knew of Stokes’ work became aware that someone else was being paid for Stokes’ music and told the music producer about it. So far, the companies involved have yet to respond to requests for comments.
The Grammy-nominated producer is suing for copyright infringement, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, unfair business practices, unjust enrichment, and financial elder abuse. He’s requesting that the court grant him a declaration that his works have been infringed and wants an injunction barring defendants from collecting or distributing any funds from his work. He is also seeking either statutory damages or actual damages and disgorgement of profits as well as compensatory and punitive damages, according to THR.