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Cher Wins Royalty Legal Battle Against Sonny Bono’s Widow

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Clear Facts

  • Pop icon Cher triumphs in a legal battle over royalties against Mary Bono, the widow of her late ex-husband Sonny Bono.
  • Court documents confirm that Cher is entitled to over $418,000 in royalties as of June 2022.
  • In 2021, Cher sued Mary Bono and others involved in the estate, accusing them of breaching a contract pertaining to music royalties and ownership rights.

The recent court decision reaffirms Cher as the rightful recipient of the due royalties from her work with her late ex-husband, Sonny Bono. This disputed case with Mary Bono, Sonny’s widow, has ultimately concluded in favour of the esteemed pop star.

U. S. District Judge John Kronstadt in the Central District of California issued a ruling this past Wednesday. The ruling clarified that Cher should have received just over $418,000 in royalties as of June 2022. The ruling stated,
“As to the resulting damages, the parties agree that at least $187,000 of Composition Royalties were distributed to Sonny’s heirs that, were it not for the invalid termination, would have been distributed to [Cher]; of this amount, at least $93,500 was paid to [Mary]. The parties also do not dispute that, as of June 30, 2022, $418,156.82 in Composition Royalties would have been distributed to [Cher].”

Unfortunately, representatives for both Cher and Mary Bono were not immediately available for comment.

Last year, Cher filed a lawsuit worth $1 million against Mary Bono and others involved in the estate, alleging a breach of contract. Cher argued that Mary tried to terminate clauses that entitled Cher to 50% ownership of the duo’s musical composition and record royalties for hits like “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.”

According to the lawsuit, “in or around 2016, the Heirs, or a majority of them, along with Wixen [Music Publishing], issued a notice of termination to various music publishers or other companies to whom Sonny had granted a transfer or license of the renewal copyrights, or rights under them, in the Musical Compositions. The Heirs’ notice specified various effective dates of termination ranging from 2018 to 2026.”

Mary Bono, the trustee of the Bono Collection Trust, utilized the Copyright Act’s “termination rights” in 2016, which permit songwriters or their heirs to “reclaim rights that had previously been transferred to third parties” after 35 years. They alleged this termination was executed “without” Cher’s “knowledge or participation.”

Judge Kronstadt’s ruling further clarified that, “In reviewing similar agreements assigning royalty rights rather than underlying copyrights, Circuit Courts have determined that a right to receive royalties is distinct from a grant of copyright,” which Mary had previously cited as part of her defense. Cher’s claim of breach of contract was also partly granted.

Additionally, Mary’s counterclaim seeking declaratory relief as to “Cher’s rights and obligations concerning the selection of an administrator” for the estate was partly granted. This means, Mary can attempt to have the estate managed by “an entity owned and controlled by Sonny’s heirs as the royalty administrator,” and Cher has the right to “make reasonable objections to the terms of any such agreement, including the reasonableness of the administration fee.”

However, the court documents did not specify how or when Cher would receive these unpaid earnings.

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