In October, Cher sued Mary Bono, Sonny Bono’s fourth wife and the trustee of the Bono Collection Trust, over alleged copyright-termination notices. Now, the defendant has officially moved to dismiss the “groundless” complaint.
75-year-old Cher submitted the original action to a federal court in her native California, reiterating early on in the suit that she and Sonny had “agreed to an equal division of their community property” after their 1975 divorce.
Then, August of 1978 allegedly saw Sonny “irrevocably” grant Cher “as her sole and separate property throughout the world and in perpetuity, fifty percent of their rights in musical composition royalties, record royalties, and other assets” less administration fees, per the plaintiff. But Cher maintained that September of 2021 had seen the Bono Collection Trust issue her own trust a Section 304(c) termination notice pertaining to the copyrights – and, in turn, a substantial portion of her royalties – covered by the 1978 agreement.
As mentioned at the outset, 60-year-old Mary Bono has now filed to dismiss the “groundless” action from Cher, new legal documents reveal.
The Cleveland native Mary Bono’s motion to dismiss indicates that Cher’s “first claim for a declaratory judgment fails to state a claim, including because it is preempted by the federal Copyright Act,” whereas the “second claim for breach of contract is insufficiently alleged.”
Elaborating upon these concise points in a 23-page-long memorandum, Mary Bono and her counsel allege that their “right to terminate certain grants pursuant to the Copyright Act preempts Plaintiff’s state law contract claims” – or the contract concerning the above-highlighted divorce agreement.
(Cher and her counsel had stated in their filing: “Sonny’s assignment to Plaintiff in the Marriage Settlement Agreement of an undivided fifty percent ownership of the Royalties is not a grant of renewal copyrights or rights that arise under the Copyright Act and, for that additional reason, is not subject to § 304(c) termination.”)
Back to Mary Bono’s motion to dismiss, though, “the plain language of Section 304 provides that a grant of a transfer or licenses ‘otherwise than by will’ may be terminated by the author’s surviving children and/or widow/widower,” the memorandum proceeds, arguing in favor of dismissing with prejudice the copyright-termination claims and without prejudice the breach-of-contract claims.
“Termination rights belong to the statutory beneficiaries, and the terminated rights revert only to the statutory beneficiaries, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary, including the MSA [marriage-settlement agreement],” reads Mary Bono’s motion.
“Sonny could grant Cher his then-current rights,” continues the defendant, “including a fifty percent royalty interest in his copyrights. Sonny could not, however, have signed away his Heirs’ future rights of termination.”
The latter statement relies on the idea that “Congress limited an author’s ability to sign away his or her termination rights.”
“Cher notes that the MSA binds both Sonny’s and Cher’s ‘respective heirs and assigns,’” the memorandum emphasizes. “However, that only applies to property and claims that are the subject of the MSA and cannot bind the Heirs on matters and property that fall outside the MSA, such as the copyrights that are subject to the termination notice.”
At the time of this piece’s publishing, Cher didn’t appear to have directly addressed Mary Bono’s motion to dismiss on social media. Earlier this year, Dwight Yoakam initiated legal action against Warner Music Group over the Big Three label’s alleged failure to return his masters following a copyright-termination notice.