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Verizon reinstates Marley ring tones

September 14, 2007|From Reuters

In a major about-face, Verizon Wireless said Thursday that it would reinstate all Bob Marley ring tones, ring backs and pictures after taking them down in response to a threat of a trademark infringement lawsuit by the late reggae star's family.

Verizon Wireless took down the music artist's works Monday, and the Marley family claimed victory in the dispute with Verizon and Universal Music Group over the use of his image and likeness.

But a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman said it would now be putting all Bob Marley material back up for its customers today after allowing the Marley family and Universal Music Group to "work out their differences."

"This was not a matter for us. We have done nothing wrong," said the spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless, which is jointly owned by New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and Britain-based Vodafone Group.

Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records and advisor to the Marley family estate, said the company would proceed with legal action.

"We are filing the lawsuit because they went back on their word," he said in a statement. "Verizon said they would take it down and they did. Now they say they are putting it back up. We are filing 100%."

Last month, the Marley family said it would sue Verizon Wireless and Universal Music Group for using the iconic star's name, likeness and image without permission.

The dispute appeared to center on interpreting Verizon's use of Marley's image either as promotional or as a paid endorsement.

"We are disappointed that the management of the Marley Estate has chosen to take such an extreme and meritless position that a customary promotional campaign highlighting the availability of Marley master tones somehow constitutes an 'endorsement' of Verizon overall," Universal said in a statement.

Universal Music Group, the parent of Island Records, the label that put out Marley hits such as "One Love" and "I Shot the Sheriff," added: "We will now make Bob Marley's music available as master tones to all phone carriers."

It was not clear whether the Marley family company, Fifty Six Hope Road Music, would still file suit against Universal Music Group, which is owned by French media giant Vivendi.

Blackwell sharply criticized Universal Music and Verizon Wireless, saying they "refuse to give the musicians the respect they deserve."

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