Appeals Court Allows Lawsuit Against Nirvana for ‘Nevermind’ Album Cover

In a recent court ruling, it has been determined that the band Nirvana can indeed be sued for “child pornography” in connection to the iconic cover of their “Nevermind” album. The well-known cover features a naked baby in a pool reaching for a dollar bill. The man who was once that baby, Spencer Elden, now in his 30s, alleges that he was the victim of child exploitation and that the cover constitutes child pornography.

The image was captured in 1990 at the Pasadena Aquatic Center when Elden was just four months old. His father, Rick, who worked in special effects for Hollywood, was connected to the photographer responsible for the shoot. Rick Elden provided insight into the photo shoot, explaining, “Babies have a gag reflex. If you blow in their face, they hold their breath. I blew in Spencer’s face and put him in the water. Kirk was shooting 18 frames a second, so Spencer was in the water for about two seconds.”

Elden has come forward to reveal the lasting impact of appearing on the cover, citing “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations.” He also claims losses in education, wages, and enjoyment of life. However, Nirvana’s estate lawyers have countered, pointing out that Elden has capitalized on his celebrity as the “Nirvana Baby” for the past three decades.

Over the years, Elden has recreated the cover at different stages of his life, most notably doing so for the album’s 25th anniversary in 2016 while wearing swim trunks. The estate, represented by surviving members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, Courtney Love, and Kirk Weddle, had previously argued that the statute of limitations had expired, rendering Elden unable to sue. However, an appeals court has overturned this, allowing Elden to sue over the re-release of the album in 2021 to commemorate its 30th anniversary.

The court clarified that the issue at hand in the appeal was not whether the album cover qualifies as child pornography, but rather the statute of limitations. “Because Elden’s claim is not barred by the ten-year statute of limitations…the district court erred in granting Defendants’ motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds,” the court stated in their opinion. They also highlighted that Elden turned 18 in 2009 and initially filed suit in 2021 at the age of 30. When Elden’s attorneys missed the deadline to oppose the motion to dismiss, the judge ruled in favor of Nirvana’s attorneys.

This ruling paves the way for Elden to proceed with his lawsuit, signaling a potential legal battle in the ongoing saga of the “Nirvana Baby” and the band’s iconic album cover.


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