Cher filed suit in Los Angeles Wednesday against Sonny Bono’s widow, Mary Bono, claiming the former Riverside County congresswoman is illegally holding onto money from a royalty-sharing agreement for songs they recorded in the 1960s as power-duo Sonny & Cher.
Cher and Bono divorced in June, 1975—a few days before the pop icon briefly married Greg Allman—and, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, signed a “1978 marriage settlement agreement” in which they “agreed to equal division of their community property.”
Cher is asking the court for a declaratory judgment that the Bono estate did not terminate her rights and to reward her at least $1 million in damages for breaching the divorce agreement, Reuters reports.
The suit alleges that Mary Bono is trying to use the 1976 Copyright Act, which in some cases allows artists to cancel copyright transfers and reclaim them after 35 years, to keep Cher’s share of the money. Cher claims that the Bono Collection Trust—of which Mary Bono has been the sole trustee since Sonny Bono died in a 1998 skiing accident—sent notices of termination to several music publishers in 2016 in an attempt to terminate her royalty rights to such hits as 1965’s I Got You Babe.
Cher also says that the trust informed her last month that it would stop paying her royalties once the termination goes into effect, and that she will no longer have any say over the use of Sonny & Cher songs.
Calling Mary Bono’s use of the Copyright Act “wholly inapplicable,” the lawsuit states, “Since 1978, Plaintiff has been the unchallenged owner of her fifty percent of all musical composition and record royalties to which Plaintiff and Sonny were entitled by reason of their collaboration and marriage, including fifty percent of all royalties that Sonny, his businesses, and his successors, receive from those musical compositions and recordings.’
Cher is also seeking a jury trial.
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