Nevermind: Lawsuit over Nirvana cover artwork of naked baby is dismissed by judge

A lawsuit against rock band Nirvana, by a man who claimed his depiction as a naked four-month-old baby on their album cover was child pornography, has been dismissed.

US District Judge Fernando Olguin in Los Angeles said Spencer Elden had waited too long to claim Nirvana sexually exploited him, having sued more than 10 years after learning about the cover for the band’s seminal 1991 album Nevermind.

The case’s defendants included Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, late lead singer Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, several record labels and photographer Kirk Weddle.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana on stage in December of 1993. Pic: AP/Scott Weiner / MediaPunch /IPX
Image: Kurt Cobain of Nirvana on stage in December of 1993. Pic: AP/Scott Weiner / MediaPunch /IPX

The lawsuit stemmed from Nirvana’s use of a photo taken by Weddle in 1991 at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California, which depicted Elden swimming naked toward a dollar bill pierced with a fish hook.

Elden was interviewed in 2003 at the age of 12 by Rolling Stone magazine about the photo, saying he was “probably gonna get some money from it,” and recreated the image as an adult in 2016 with “Nevermind” tattooed on his chest.

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He nevertheless claimed in his lawsuit, which began in August 2021, that he met the statute of limitations because of his injuries which included emotional distress, lost earning capacity and “loss of enjoyment of life” continued into adulthood.

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The judge rejected that argument, saying it would effectively permit Elden to sue Nirvana indefinitely.

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs after the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Gaelen Morse
Image: Dave Grohl was Nirvana’s drummer before forming the Foo Fighters

In his ruling, Judge Olguin wrote: “In sum, plaintiff fails to allege that he knew of a violation that occurred while he was a minor or an injury that forms the basis of the claim within ten years of filing this action.”

Elden had filed three versions of his complaint, and Olguin’s dismissal prevents him from filing a fourth.

Bert Deixler, a lawyer for the defendants, said: “We are pleased this meritless case has been brought to a speedy
final conclusion.”

More than 30 million copies of Nevermind, which features the song Smells Like Teen Spirit, have been sold.