Naked baby from Nevermind album cover sues Nirvana for 'child pornography'

·2 min read
A cropped image from the album cover for Nirvana's Nevermind, which features Spencer Elden as a naked baby reaching for a U.S. dollar bill. Elden, now 30, is suing the band for alleged child pornography.  (Nirvana - image credit)
A cropped image from the album cover for Nirvana's Nevermind, which features Spencer Elden as a naked baby reaching for a U.S. dollar bill. Elden, now 30, is suing the band for alleged child pornography. (Nirvana - image credit)

Spencer Elden, who appears naked as a baby on the cover of Nirvana's 1991 album Nevermind, is suing the band for alleged child exploitation and pornography.

The album cover shows Elden, now 30, as a four-month-old baby boy swimming naked underwater with a U.S. dollar bill hanging in front of him on a fishhook.

"Defendants intentionally commercially marketed Spencer's child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense," he alleged in the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday.

Elden is asking for $150,000 in damages from each of the defendants, which include former band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, photographer Kirk Weddle, various record companies, and Courtney Love, executor of lead singer Kurt Cobain's estate.

According to the court filing, Robert Y. Lewis, Elden's lawyer, says the inclusion of the dollar bill in the photograph makes the baby resemble "a sex worker."

Elden says his parents never signed a release authorizing the use of the image and that he was never compensated for the photo beyond the $200 his parents were paid for it on the day the photo was taken.

The lawsuit also alleged that a sticker was initially going to be used to cover Elden's genitals, which appear in the photograph shot by Weddle, who was a friend of Elden's father.

Elden also says he has suffered from "extreme and permanent emotional distress" since the photograph was taken.

Universal Music Group, Weddle and a publicist for Love did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment.

Album cover's immense popularity

Nirvana's Nevermind album has sold around 30 million copies worldwide, and the cover art has been named one of the greatest album covers of all time by Billboard magazine and Rolling Stone magazine.

Elden has a tattoo that reads "Nevermind" across his chest, and he has previously recreated the pool photograph numerous times for the album's anniversaries.

He had previously discussed the photograph in numerous interviews, including a 2008 interview with NPR where 17-year-old Elden discussed how he struggled to make sense of his public image.

In an interview with TIME in 2016, Elden expressed his frustration with the lack of compensation he's received for the photograph.

"It's hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved," he said to TIME in 2016.

"I just woke up already being a part of this huge project. It's pretty difficult – you feel like you're famous for nothing, but you didn't really do anything but their album."

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