When Is A Ringtone Not Just A Music Clip?

When it’s an endorsement, argues the family of Bob Marley — marketing, image and music: Family Challenges Verizon Wireless Deal to Sell Bob Marley Ring Tones

Chris Blackwell, a longtime spokesman for the Marley family, said by telephone from his home in Britain that he was originally approached by Verizon Wireless a few months ago and met with representatives of the company twice.

While Verizon proposed the deal as a matter of simply licensing the music, Mr. Blackwell said, the family held that if the cellular company was going to provide the ring tones exclusively and use Mr. Marley’s image to its marketing benefit, it amounted to an endorsement.

“It was not something we were willing to consider unless they were willing to view it as an endorsement,” said Mr. Blackwell, adding that along with securing a fee for the family, an endorsement contract would allow the estate to set parameters on how Mr. Marley’s image and name could be used. (The phone company is already using an image of Mr. Marley to promote itself on its Web site.)

But rather than make an endorsement offer, Verizon went to Universal, a subsidiary of Vivendi, and sewed up a deal without the family’s blessing.