Cher Sues Ex Sonny Bono's Widow Mary for $1 Million Over 1960s Hits Rights and Royalties

Cher is allegedly being denied 50% of the royalties generated by Sonny & Cher in the 1960s, the filing claims

Cher attends The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opening Gala at The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Cher. Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty

Cher is suing former California Rep. Mary Bono, the widow of her ex-husband Sonny.

Cher, 75, filed a complaint against Mary, 59, on Wednesday and is seeking $1 million in damages. The complaint alleges rights and royalties from the songs Cher and Sonny recorded as a duo including "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On" are being withheld from Cher.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles, Cher claims that the Mary has "undone" Cher's ownership of the rights and royalties of the duo, of which Cher is entitled to 50% as a part of her 1978 divorce agreement with Sonny.

Sonny and Cher Bono pose for a promotional photo for "The Sonny and Cher Show" in 1970.
Sonny and Cher. Martin Mills/Getty

While the division of their rights and royalties ran smoothly after Sonny's death in 1998 from a skiing accident, Mary allegedly attempted to use a "wholly inapplicable statutory termination provision of the Copyright Act of 1976" to terminate Cher's rights entirely, the complaint claims. Therefore, this lawsuit attempts to reclaim the royalties that have been allegedly withheld and aims to stop any future attempts to terminate her stake.

IT also states that in 2016, Sonny's heirs and 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 notice specified effective dates ranging from 2018 to 2026. This was issued without Cher's knowledge or participation, she claims.

Last month, the Bono Collection Trust told Cher's representatives that the notice of termination would terminate "the stream of composition royalties" that Sonny assigned to her in 1978, according to the compaint.

Under the termination, she would also no longer have "approval rights with respect to all agreements with third parties respecting the musical compositions and composition royalties; no longer is entitled to direct payment of 50% of record royalties directly from record companies [and] no longer is entitled to object to administration fees in excess of ten percent."

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Cher and Sonny got married in 1964 and performed under the name Sonny & Cher. The couple also built their famous CBS variety show together, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, in the 1970s.

They divorced later that decade, and Cher went on to become a successful actress, winning an Oscar for 1987's Moonstruck. Sonny became mayor of Palm Springs from 1988 to 1992, and a Republican congressman from 1995 until his death. Meanwhile Mary and Sonny were married from 1986 up to his death.

Cher's lawyers did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment; a rep for Cher had no comment.

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