Cher Is the Victor in Suit Against Sonny Bono's Widow

Singer wins complaint against Mary Bono over royalties; Cher is owed about $418K
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2024 9:35 AM CDT
Sonny Bono's Former Wives Face Off, With Cher the Victor
Cher is seen at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, during the Cannes film fest, in Cap d'Antibes, France, on Thursday.   (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

When Cher officially split with her partner in life and business, Sonny Bono, in 1978, their divorce settlement left Bono with ownership of their song catalog, including such hits as "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On," and Cher with a 50% stake in publishing royalties. A few years back, however, Bono's widow, Mary Bono, threw a wrench into that arrangement when she tried to wrest back control of all the publishing rights to her late husband's songs. This week, a California federal judge ruled in favor of Cher, per Rolling Stone. How it all played out:

  • Mary Bono's beef: After Sonny Bono died in 1998, Cher and his heirs worked out a partnership. Then, in 2016, Mary Bono invoked the Copyright Act, specifically the section on termination rights, which asserts that songwriters and their heirs have the right to wrest back US publishing rights after 35 years. Then, in 2021, Bono informed Cher she soon wouldn't receive any more royalties, leading to a lawsuit from Cher.

  • Cher's pushback: In her complaint, the 78-year-old performer says she was still owed her half of the royalties, as "a federal copyright provision had no bearing on a state-law asset settlement," per Billboard.
  • Judge's ruling: On Wednesday, US District Judge John Kronstadt agreed with Cher, ruling that Cher's divorce settlement gave her the "contractual right to receive financial compensation." He added in his ruling: "A right to receive royalties is distinct from a grant of copyright."
  • At stake: Per Wednesday's decision, Cher is owed about $418,000 in royalties that have been amassing since the dispute began.
  • Cher's fate: The singer hasn't simply been riding the coattails of her Sonny & Cher days: The Guardian notes her successful solo career, bolstered by her 1990s hit "Believe." Her last album, released last fall, was a Christmas collection that spawned the chart-topping "DJ Play a Christmas Song," giving Cher a No. 1 song in every decade for seven decades in a row.
(More Cher stories.)

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