The baby photographed for the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind has filed a lawsuit against the band, alleging the photograph constituted child pornography. The album cover, as I’m sure you know, depicts a baby underwater chasing a digitally rendered dollar on a fishhook; an obvious statement against capitalism. Spencer Elden (the baby) is now 30 years old, and is chasing $150,000 from each of 17 named defendants; an obvious statement in favor of trying something just in case it works.
According to a report from Variety, Elden’s lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, claims the image is a work of child pornography, alleging the dollar bill makes the baby seem “like a sex worker.” Lewis alleges this was done intentionally to increase album sales. The defendants listed in the lawsuit include Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, plus Courtney Love, the executor of Kurt Cobain’s estate, and Guy Oseary and Heather Parry, the managers of Cobain’s estate. Also included are the photographer and art director, as well as several record executives.
“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,” says the lawsuit, again via Variety. “Defendants used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential element of a record promotion scheme commonly utilized in the music industry to get attention, wherein album covers posed children in a sexually provocative manner to gain notoriety, drive sales, and garner media attention, and critical reviews.”
Elden’s parents were paid $200 for the photo, but allegedly never signed a release for its use, which may play a part in the suit’s proceedings. “Neither Spencer nor his legal guardians ever signed a release authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness, and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him,” says the lawsuit.
The suit comes just ahead of the 30th anniversary of Nevermind’s release. It’s one of several times Elden, who has a “Nevermind” tattoo across his décolletage, has brought attention to the cover on a notable anniversary. The other times consisted mainly of him recreating the cover as an adult wearing swim trunks.
Good luck to the Nirvana baby on finally nailing his cash grab.