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Why a Grammy-Nominated Music Producer Is Suing the Major Music Companies

Grammy-nominated producer Michael Stokes has filed a lawsuit against numerous major music industry entities for copyright infringement, conversion and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, unfair business practices, unjust enrichment and financial elder abuse.

Stokes, also known as a composer, writer, musician and publisher, has worked with the likes of Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Prince and Earth Wind Fire, while his music has been sampled and used by Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Ne-Yo, LL Cool J, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, French Montana and more.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in United States District Court in California, Stokes calls out Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, The Bicycle Music Company, Kobalt Music Group and Concord Music Group.

In 2010, Stokes suffered a stroke that “incapacitated him and rendered him unable to manage or supervise the musical empire he had created over the course of several decades,” the complaint, obtained by Rolling Stone, says. While he was incapacitated, Stokes claims his signature was allegedly forged on several documents that moved his copyrights and attendant rights over to the former Music Publishing Company of America (MPCA). The suit claims that MPCA then sold or transferred said rights to Bicycle Music Company, where “substantial income” was earned in a fashion that Stokes’ attorney, Paul Phillips, is considering knowing and unlawful. (Bicycle would subsequently be absorbed by Kobalt and Concord.)

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