There are few people who are not familiar with the cover of the famous ‘Nevermind’ album by Nirvana. The breakthrough release shows a baby floating naked in a pool of water chasing a dollar bill and, literally, letting it all hang out.
The subject of the photo is now a grown man. Spencer Elden, has long been involved in a legal battle against the group claiming the photo “constitutes child pornography”. A California judge granted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but now Elden is reigniting the battle.
Elden’s legal team were granted “one last opportunity” to present an amended claim to the judge. They have come forward with new “images and materials which reveal the ‘Nevermind’ creators’ made deliberate choices to commercialize and exploit the sexually explicit photo lasciviously depicting Spencer’s genitals,” say Elden’s attorneys.
“This unprecedented album cover is perhaps the first and only time a child’s full-frontal nudity has been used to sell a product,” the legal team went on to say in their statement. “Spencer’s image constitutes child pornography and each of the Nirvana Defendants robbed our client of his dignity and privacy.”
The suit is being reopened against then Nirvana band members Dave Grohl, Chad Channing, Krist Novoselic and the late Kurt Cobain, with potential damages being paid by Cobain’s widow and estate executor Courtney Love. Also being targeted are the album photographer, designer, and the record companies Geffen, Warner, MCA Music, and the Universal Music Group.
There are 17 defendants in all. Elden is asking for a trial by jury and $150,000 from each party.
They are being accused of knowingly possessing, producing, and advertising “commercial child pornography.” Elden’s attorneys are claiming that the plaintiff “will continue to suffer damages as long as the violations above persist.”
“During the 10 years preceding the filing of this action, each Defendant intentionally commercially marketed the child pornography depicting Spencer and leveraged the lascivious nature of his image to promote the ‘Nevermind’ album, the band, and Nirvana’s music while, earning, at a minimum, tens of millions of dollars in the aggregate,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit also states that members of the band purposely chose a photo of Elden with his penis visible while reaching for the dollar bill hanging from a fishhook. It compares the image to that of a “sexworker”.
Elden and his legal team note that the band has continued to reproduce, distribute, and advertise the supposedly pornographic cover as it was used for the 30th anniversary rerelease of the album in September of 2021.
“As long as the entertainment industry prioritizes profits over childhood privacy, consent, and dignity, our client will continue his pursuit for awareness and accountability,” Elden’s attorneys said in a statement.
Despite the lawsuit being filed, Elden’s attitude wasn’t always against the album image. In fact, he has previously recreated the cover to honor the album’s 15th and 25th anniversary releases.
He also spoke positively about the cover to members of the media in the past. “It’s only opened doors for me and been a really positive fun experience,” Elden was quoted as saying in a 2015 interview.
The photo cover in question was taken by current defendant and photographer Kirk Weddle. Weddle was friends with Elden’s parents and asked if they were interested in having their four-month-old baby be part of the project.
According to Elden, his parents agreed, not thinking much of it, “My dad was like, ‘Ah, no problem, man. We’ll just go down to the pool and throw him (in) and that’ll be it. And it was no big deal. And no one knew what it was going to become.”
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Elden’s parents were paid $200 in return for allowing the photographer to use their son for the album cover which, to date, has sold over 30 million copies. According to the complaint, neither Elden nor his parents ever signed a release authorizing use of the images.
Will Elden’s efforts in reopening the lawsuit be worthwhile? Or will he end up with the same ruling? Only time will tell as the drama continues to unfold.