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Cher Officially Wins Royalties Lawsuit Against Ex Sonny Bono’s Widow Mary Bono

Cher Officially Wins Royalties Lawsuit Against Ex Sonny Bono Widow Mary Bono
CherStephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Cher officially came out on top in her years-long legal dispute with ex-husband Sonny Bono‘s widow, Mary Bono.

A federal judge in the Central District of California ruled in Cher’s favor on Wednesday, May 29, according to multiple outlets. It was determined that Cher, 78, is entitled to the royalties of the songs she recorded with Sonny during their marriage, which upheld a tentative ruling reached by the judge in February.

As part of the former couple’s 1978 divorce settlement, Cher earned a permanent 50 percent stake in the musical duo’s publishing catalog. Following Sonny’s death in 1998, a partnership was reached between Cher and his family regarding the rights. Mary subsequently argued, however, that she no longer needed to pay royalties.

Mary initially invoked the Copyright Act’s “termination rights,” a federal provision which allows songwriters and their heirs to win back publishing rights after 35 years, in 2016. Five years later, Cher sued and claimed she was still entitled to the 50 percent cut she earned in the settlement. Mary fired back soon after, alleging that the federal provision could not be waived.

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According to the Wednesday decision, Cher will continue to receive royalties — more than $400,000 of which have piled up since the legal battle began — on some of her biggest hits with Sonny, including “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.”

Cher Officially Wins Royalties Lawsuit Against Ex Sonny Bono Widow Mary Bono 2
Sonny Bono and his 4th wife Mary Whitaker January 1, 1991 in the kitchen of their Palm Springs home, California. Paul Harris/Getty Images

Judge John A. Kronstadt determined that Cher was given “contractual right to receive financial compensation” through her divorce settlement. “A right to receive royalties is distinct from a grant of copyright,” he wrote, per Billboard.

Sonny & Cher rose to popularity throughout the ’60s and continued performing together until their split. Before going their separate ways, the duo were nominated for two Grammy Awards and sold over 40 million records worldwide. Cher pursued a solo career, earning the “Goddess of Pop” title, while Sonny pivoted to politics.

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Sonny and Mary tied the knot in 1986. They were still married when he died in a skiing accident in 1998, and Cher delivered a eulogy at her ex-husband’s funeral.

Cher Officially Wins Royalties Lawsuit Against Ex Sonny Bono Widow Mary Bono 3
Mary Bono Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

The Moonstruck actress, for her part, was married to Gregg Allman from 1975 to 1979. She shared one child, Chaz Bono, with Sonny and welcomed Elijah Blue Allman with the Allman Brothers Band singer.

Along with her copyright battle, Cher filed for a conservatorship of her youngest son due to his alleged substance abuse issues. She argued in December 2023 court documents that Elijah is “substantially unable to manage his financial resources.” Following a private mediation session held earlier this month, Cher and Elijah agreed to temporarily suspend all legal proceedings related to the conservatorship.

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