The case of the cover of Nirvana’s iconic “Nevermind” album is back in court. Spencer Elden, whose nude photo as a four-month-old baby was used on the cover, is once again suing the band and Universal Music Group for sexual abuse. On Thursday, December 21, a federal appeals court ruled that Elden could bring proceedings against the band.
The cover of Nirvana’s second album “Nevermind” from 1991 is one of the most famous album covers of all time. The album, which included such hits as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come As You Are” and “Something In The Way”, has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, and the photo of a baby swimming in a pool and trying to catch a banknote caught on a fishing rod is usually interpreted as a criticism of capitalism.
However, the “Nirvana child” on the cover – 32-year-old Spencer Elden – claims that the photo in which he is naked constitutes sexual abuse and that he suffered “lasting harm” as a result of it, while the band and others benefited from it .
This is the second lawsuit in this case. Last year, Spencer Elden sought damages from surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, as well as the heirs of the late Kurt Cobain and photographer Kirk Weddle. A federal judge in California then dismissed the lawsuit but allowed Elden to amend it. However, this version of the lawsuit was dismissed in 2022 because, as it was stated, the 10-year statute of limitations had expired, writes the Associated Press.
The case is to return to the docket
However, Thursday’s decision by a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals overturned that ruling and sent the case to a lower court. The court ruled that any republication of the photo “may constitute new personal injury” with a new date and cited the photo’s appearance in the 2021 reissue of the “Nevermind” album to mark its 30th anniversary.
In the ruling, according to Rolling Stone magazine, the court stated that although Elden’s photo was from 1991 and he had allegedly known about the band’s distribution of the album cover for over a decade, this did not necessarily mean that the statute of limitations had expired. “Like victims of defamation, victims of child pornography may once again be harmed by the republication of pornographic material,” the ruling reads. – This conclusion is consistent with the Supreme Court’s position that “every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of violence against the victim.”
At the same time, as reported by the New York Times, the court noted that “the issue of whether the ‘Nevermind’ album cover meets the definition of child pornography is not the subject of this appeal.”
“This procedural failure does not change our position,” Nirvana’s lawyer said in response to the ruling. “We will defend ourselves against these baseless allegations and expect victory,” he added.
Arguments of the team’s lawyers
Previously, the band’s attorneys argued that Elden agreed to appear on the cover of the album’s reissue, even claiming that he had benefited from his fame as a self-proclaimed “Nirvana kid” for three decades. Moreover, according to the band’s lawyers, Elden repeatedly recreated the photo for money, had the title of the album “Nevermind” tattooed on his chest, and even appeared on a talk show in a jumpsuit imitating nudity, where he parodied the photo himself. He also sold autographed copies of the cover on Ebay and used it to attract women.
Elden’s lawyer, Robert Lewis, said his client is very pleased with the new decision and looks forward to the hearing.
Main photo source: Shutterstock