Cher Sues Sonny Bono’s Widow in Royalties Dispute
Cher filed a lawsuit against the widow of Sonny Bono, alleging that she ended music contracts contrary to the terms of the musicians’ divorce deal.
The 1978 agreement meant the former couple was to share royalties for their Sonny & Cher hits equally. But in paperwork filed recently, Cher claimed that Mary Bono started renegotiating to take 100 percent of the income via her Bono Collection Trust, with none being paid to Cher’s Veritas Trust.
Sonny & Cher released five albums and 21 singles from 1965-74. The end of their marriage didn’t initially end their topflight entertainment career together, but it disintegrated soon afterward. Sonny married Mary in 1986 then died 12 years later; Cher delivered a eulogy at his funeral.
The breach-of-contract lawsuit seeks at least $1 million in reparation for contracts ending between 2018 and 2026. The Bono Collection Trust’s position is that it’s entirely legal for it to renegotiate copyright deals with record companies once a certain time has passed and that Cher’s right to be involved in any negotiations has expired. The Veritas Trust counters that the divorce agreement trumps that legislation.
Cher’s documents (via the Los Angeles Times) states that she “disputes each of the Bono Collection Trust’s contentions, but the Bono Collection Trust continues to adhere to its contentions and has stopped, or will shortly stop, paying to the Veritas Trust 50 percent of Composition Royalties and honoring Plaintiff’s rights under the Marriage Settlement Agreement.”
The document added that "Mary Bono claims that a wholly inapplicable statutory termination provision of the Copyright Act of 1976 ... has undone [Cher’s] ownership of her royalties from the songs and recordings that she and Sonny made famous during their marriage, and deprived [Cher] of other long-established rights under the 1978 agreement.”
“The Copyright Act allows Sonny's widow and children to reclaim Sonny's copyrights from publishers, which is what they did,” Bono’s attorney Daniel Schacht said in a statement. “Bono remains open to continuing a private discussion about this, but we are confident that, if necessary, the court will affirm their position.”