Jun 20, 2024 1 min read

Warner Music sued over Tom Petty documentary

Film-maker Martyn Atkins has accused Warner Music of using his footage of Tom Petty recording 1994 album ‘Wildflowers’ in the 2021 documentary ‘Somewhere You Feel Free’ without permission. Not only that, but the documentary was originally Atkins idea, it is claimed

Warner Music sued over Tom Petty documentary

Photographer, designer and film-maker Martyn Atkins has sued Warner Music over the 2021 documentary ‘Somewhere You Feel Free’, about the making of Tom Petty’s 1994 album ‘Wildflowers’. The film, Atkins claims, contains 45 minutes of footage he filmed and owns which was used without permission.

The documentary was actually Atkins’ idea, according to his lawsuit, with him and Petty regularly discussing the project before the musician’s death in 2017. 

The Petty estate then decided to proceed with the documentary in 2020, approaching Atkins to discuss his involvement and to inquire about how they could access the footage he had recorded in the 1990s. 

However, he alleges, the estate then teamed up with Petty’s label Warner to make ‘Somewhere You Feel Free’ without his involvement, and made heavy use of his footage without permission. 

“Atkins did not provide consent, did not otherwise license any of the footage, and was not compensated in any manner for the film’s unauthorised, brazen exploitation of the works Atkins created and owns”, the lawsuit declares.

Atkins was initially hired to create the artwork for ‘Wildflowers’ in 1994. He quickly became friends with Petty, he says, and ended up spending lots of time with the musician in the studio and on tour. Along the way he started documenting Petty’s music-making on film.

Perhaps anticipating a dispute over who owns the rights in that footage, Atkins is keen to stress that the filming was done “on his own volition and at his own cost”. And while the footage was subsequently stored by Warner, he is still the “exclusive owner and author”.

As a result, Atkins claims, Warner is liable for copyright infringement and should pay him lots of damages.

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