Filmmaker Martyn Atkins has filed a lawsuit against Warner Music's production branch over their use of some allegedly stolen footage in a 2021 documentary about Tom Petty.

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: The Making of Wildflowers was directed by Mary Wharton and featured new interviews with people like Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers as it detailed the making of Petty's 1994 solo album. It also included never-before-seen-footage, culled from hours of 16mm archival film that Wharton was given access to via Petty's daughter, Adria.

"A lot of it was dictated by what was good and what we could find sound for," Wharton told UCR in 2021, speaking to how they sorted through the footage, because, she explained.  "either the reels were not properly organized afterwards or properly labeled."

In Atkins lawsuit, he claims that he did not give Warner Music, whom Petty signed with back in 1989 and stayed with until his death in 2017, permission to use "a shocking 45 minutes" (via Billboard) of footage that he shot in the '90s and that he was "not compensated in any manner for the film's unauthorized, brazen exploitation of the works Atkins created and owns." (The film itself is 90 minutes long.)

Atkins Met With the Tom Petty Team

Atkins, who frequently photographed Petty in the '90s and served as his art director during the making of Wildflowers, also claims that he had discussed making a documentary film about Petty at the time. After Petty's death, he met with Adria and the estate representatives and was allegedly promised that he could direct a film and therefore shared the file location of much of his material.

"Atkins had been conned into believing he would produce and direct the film so that Atkins would reveal the location of his footage to defendants," the lawsuit claims. It also asserts that the producers of Somewhere You Feel Free "repeatedly misrepresented" the film's footage as having been "magically and unexpectedly discovered" before being used in the movie. "The film's producers have systematically implemented this false narrative to manipulate the viewing public and bolster the marketing of the film," the suit reads. (Press releases from 2021 regarding the film describe the footage as "newly discovered.")

READ MORE: The Best Song From Every Tom Petty Album

Atkins claims that following his meeting with the Petty team, he was left out of the loop entirely.

"He was then cut out completely — in every imaginable respect," the suit says. "He was not even told as a courtesy that his works would be misappropriated and featured, let alone asked his consent."

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He's a rock 'n' roll rarity: an artist who was consistent until the very end.

Gallery Credit: Bryan Wawzenek

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