Appeals court allows lawsuit to go forward against rock band Nirvana

 December 25, 2023

A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit against the rock band Nirvana from the man who appeared as a naked baby on the cover of their best-selling album Nevermind. 

Spencer Elden, who is now 32, says the iconic image has caused him harm over the years.

The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court allowed Elden to proceed with his case after it was previously thrown out on a technicality.

Nirvana lawsuit goes forward

Elden says the band disregarded his family's wishes not to show his genitals on the famous cover, which depicts Elden swimming toward a dollar bill on a fishhook.

Every time the cover image is replicated, there is the risk of additional harm to Elden, the court said.

“The question whether the ‘Nevermind’ album cover meets the definition of child pornography is not at issue in this appeal,” the court wrote, according to the New York Times. 

Elden filed the lawsuit in 2021, seeking "an injunction on future sales, marketing and distribution, a jury trial and $150,000 from each defendant in actual damages as well as punitive damages," the Los Angeles Times reported.

His parents were paid $200 for the shocking image, which captured the dark essence of the band and the youth culture they came to define.

"We will defend this meritless case with vigor and expect to prevail," Bert H. Deixler, an attorney for the band said.

Iconic album

Despite his misgivings, Elden has recreated the image as an adult.

“The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was 4 months old and it became this really iconic image,” he said.

“It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember."

The famous album, which included the anthemic track "Smells Like Teen Spirit," captured youth angst in the 1990s and catapulted Nirvana's doomed singer, Kurt Cobain, to global stardom.

By the time of 27-year-old Cobain's suicide by gunshot in 1994, Nevermind had reinvented popular culture.

The album's enormous commercial success made alternative rock radio-friendly, while rendering obsolete the hard rock style of the previous decade.

The record has sold over 30 million copies and is on a short list of albums to be certified Diamond, meaning more than 10 million copies sold.

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