LOS ANGELES, CA – Spencer Elden, whose nude photograph as a baby was used for the cover of the 1991 hit album “Nevermind” by grunge rock band Nirvana, is now suing the band and a number of other connected individuals, claiming that his image was used without his consent and constitutes child pornography.
The cover depicts Elden, now 30, when he was four months old underwater in a swimming pool – his genitals fully visible – with a dollar bill on a fishing hook dangling in front of him.
However, Elden said in legal papers filed in a California court this week by his lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, that his parents never signed a release authorizing his likeness to be used on the album cover, and claims that his nude photograph is child pornography and that he himself was “sexually exploited.”
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“The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day,” the court filing said.
In addition, Lewis stated that the dollar bill on the cover of the album seems to depict his then-minor client “like a sex worker.” It is also alleged that Nirvana had falsely promised to cover Elden’s genitals with a sticker, which never materialized when the album was released.
Elden claims that his “true identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor which has been distributed and sold worldwide from the time he was a baby to the present day,” and that he “has suffered and will continue to suffer lifelong damages” as a result of the artwork, including “extreme and permanent emotional distress” as well as “interference with his normal development and educational progress” and “medical and psychological treatment”.
Elden is suing 15 defendants in the case for at least $150,000 each, including the managers of the late Kurt Cobain’s estate, living band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, and photographer Kirk Weddle.
Despite the trauma that he claims to have endured, Elden has nonetheless allowed himself to be photographed in pools in subsequent years – while wearing a bathing suit – to recreate the original Nevermind cover on the album’s 10th, 20th and 25th anniversaries.
In addition, he has previously said positive things about being the Nevermind cover baby, saying in a 2015 interview that “It’s always been a positive thing and opened doors for me.”