Nirvana is being sued by Spencer Elden, the baby pictured on the cover of their legendary 1991 album Nevermind, for child pornography.
The cover depicts Elden as a four-month-old in a swimming pool, trying to grab a dollar bill that’s being dangled in front of him on a fishing line. Now, he says his parents never signed a release authorising the use of his image on the album. He also alleges the nude image constitutes child pornography.
“The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day,” legal papers filed in California claim.
According to legal documents uploaded by Pitchfork, surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, the estate of Kurt Cobain, Nevermind album cover photographer Kirk Weddle and designer Robert Fisher are being sued. Nirvana’s drummer from 1988 to 1990, Chad Channing, and the labels responsible for the album’s release, including Universal Music and Geffen Records, are also mentioned in the lawsuit filed on August 24.
The lawsuit claims that Elden “has suffered and will continue to suffer lifelong damages” as a result of the defendants’ “commercial child sexual exploitation of him from while he was minor to the present day”. “The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day,” the legal papers read. He is asking for damages of at least $150,000 (£109,000) from each of the 15 defendants.
Elden’s lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, argues that the inclusion of the dollar bill makes the minor seem “like a sex worker”. The legal case also alleges that the band had promised to cover Elden’s genitals with a sticker, but the agreement was not fulfilled.
Photographer Kirk Weddle asked Elden’s parents if he could use their newborn baby as part of a photoshoot for the then-rising band Nirvana. Elden’s parents, who were friends with Weddle, were reportedly paid only $200 for the shoot, which lasted around 15 seconds.