Mary Bono says Cher’s $1 million lawsuit over allegedly unpaid royalties for Sonny & Cher songs including “I Got You Babe” is “groundless” and should be dismissed, according to a new filing in federal court in Los Angeles.
The widow of Sonny Bono — who was elected to replace him in Congress just months after his 1998 death in a skiing accident — claims in her new paperwork that federal law, specifically the Copyright Act, is on her side and trumps any state contract or community property laws cited by Cher in her breach of contract complaint filed Oct. 13.
In her lawsuit, Cher claims Mary Bono and the Bono Collection Trust are improperly attempting to terminate her 50% share of the composition and recording royalties for Sonny & Cher songs that she was awarded in her 1978 divorce agreement with Sonny.
According to Mary Bono, the 50% stake has expired, with the right flowing back to Sonny’s heirs under the Copyright Act.
“Sonny could grant Cher his then-current rights, including a 50% royalty interest in his copyrights. Sonny could not, however, have signed away his heirs’ future rights of termination,” Mary’s new dismissal motion filed Wednesday and obtained by Rolling Stone reads.
“The heirs’ right to terminate under the Copyright Act preempts Cher’s state law breach of contract claim. Therefore, her claim fails,” the filing argues, naming the heirs as Mary Bono, Chesare Bono, Chianna Bono, Christy Bono, and Chaz Bono.
The new paperwork also claims it was “improper” for Cher’s underlying lawsuit to refer to Sonny’s heirs beyond Mary as Doe defendants. “Cher’s claims affect all of the heirs’ rights, so she will have to add all of the heirs as defendants if she wishes to continue to pursue her groundless claims,” the filing states. That would include Chaz, Cher’s only child with Sonny, it states.
A hearing on the dismissal motion is set for April 11, the paperwork states.
Cher, 75, is a Grammy, Oscar, and Emmy winner who began performing with Sonny Bono in 1964 and appeared with him in the The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour before moving on to a solo singing career and critically acclaimed roles in the movies Silkwood, Mask, The Witches of Eastwick and Moonstruck.
Attempts to reach lawyers representing Cher in the legal war were not immediately successful Wednesday.