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Judge declines to dismiss, but nevertheless trims down, Cher’s royalties lawsuit against Sonny Bono’s widow

By | Published on Monday 20 March 2023


The judge overseeing a dispute between Cher and Sonny Bono’s widow has declined to dismiss the former’s lawsuit, although he has trimmed it down somewhat.

The dispute centres on how the pesky termination right in US copyright law impacts on a deal done in the 1970s after Cher and Bono split up both professionally and personally.

Cher and Bono began working together in the early 1960s, subsequently marrying and then enjoying much success together in both music and on TV. However, the marriage ended in 1975, and their double act came to an end soon after.

Following all that, a deal was done in 1978 that provided Cher with a 50% share in the royalties being generated by the recordings and songs that had been released during the couple’s time together, professionally and personally. And that deal remained in place until recently.

Things started to change after Bono’s fourth wife and widow Mary – and the Bono Collection Trust which oversees the late musician’s estate – began enforcing the termination right under US law which allows creators to terminate old deals, via which they assigned copyrights to others, after 35 years.

Once that process was underway, the Trust argued that the changes in ownership caused by the terminations also impacted on the royalty and veto rights that Cher secured in the 1978 deal.

Cher disputes that the copyright terminations should have any impact on that agreement and went legal seeking court confirmation of that view last year. Mary Bono then made her own court filing claiming that Cher’s arguments are invalid and her case should be dismissed.

In a ruling last week, the judge overseeing the case declined to dismiss Cher’s case outright, though nevertheless ruled partly in Bono’s favour.

He basically decided that there were grounds for dismissal when it came to royalties stemming from the recordings covered by the 1978 agreement, but not the songs. Therefore, for now at least, Cher’s lawsuit regarding song royalties can proceed. She can also file an amended claim regarding the recording royalties.

Commenting on that ruling, a legal rep for Bono told Billboard: “We are happy that the court recognised some of the flaws in Cher’s case at this preliminary stage, and we look forward to resolving the remainder of the case”.