Spencer Elden Files a New Appeal in Nirvana ‘Nevermind’ Baby Album Cover Lawsuit

Spencer Elden, the man who was featured on the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind as a nude infant and sued the band in 2021 claiming that the 30-year-old photograph of him violated federal pornography laws and exploited him, has filed an appeal in the lawsuit, which was dismissed by a U.S. District Court Judge in January 2022.

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Elden, 31, is still seeking financial damages from the surviving band members, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, along with late singer Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, Universal Music Group, and photographer Kirk Weddle, and appealed the dismissal of the lawsuit with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California.

Judge Fernando M. Olguin dismissed the case in Jan. 2022 after lawyers for Elden missed the Dec. 30, 2021 deadline to file an opposition motion against the band’s legal request to dismiss the case in December.

At the age of four months old, Elden appeared nude in a pool with his genitalia visible, swimming toward a dollar bill on a fish hook for the 1991 album cover. In the initial lawsuit, which he filed on Aug. 23, 2021, the photograph left him with “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations.”

At the time of the Nevermind photo shoot, Elden’s father, Rick, was friends with Weddle, who initially informed his parents about the shoot. Elden’s parents were compensated $200 for the shoot at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena, California, and allegedly never signed paperwork allowing the use of the image.

30th Anniversary Edition of ‘Nevermind’ (Photo: Universal Music Enterprises)

The new filing claims that the previous presiding judge dismissed the case in error based on a statute of limitation, which Elden’s attorneys say does not apply to the case since the impact of the album cover on Elden’s life is ongoing. Elden and his attorneys have also invoked Masha’s Law, which allows victims of child pornography to seek monetary damages into adulthood.

“Courts have repeatedly held that distribution of child pornography infringes a victim’s dignity interests no matter the victim’s age at the time of distribution,” wrote Elden’s attorneys in the new filing. They also claimed that Cobain “described his twisted vision for the Nevermind album cover as a manifestation of his emotional and sexual disturbances” in several of his journal entries.

They added, “Cobain’s preoccupation with pornographic imagery started at a very early age. One of Cobain’s school classmates discovered him drawing pornography as a young child.”

Elden said that the defendants were commercially exploiting the frontal nude image of him as an infant to sell millions of albums worldwide. “This understandably causes him extreme ongoing psychic or emotional injury for which he is entitled to damages and an injunction,” read the appeal. “Although this remedy will not rid the world of his sexualized image, it will provide him the means to get mental health treatment and give him the benefit of knowing that the distribution and repeated violation of his privacy by Appellees will finally stop.”

Attorneys for the Nirvana estate, which represents Grohl, Novoselic, and Love, accused Elden of profiting from the Nevermind image for 30 years before filing the lawsuit. Over the years, Elden has recreated the Nevermind photoshoot for the 15th and 20th anniversaries of the album and even has a tattoo on his chest of the album title.

Other defendants, who were initially named in Elden’s lawsuit include Nirvana’s original drummer Chad Channing, who was replaced by Grohl before Nevermind, music managers Guy Oseary and Heather Parry, who manage Cobain’s estate, art director Robert Fisher, and a number of record companies—many that are now defunct—who handled the distribution of Nevermind since its 1991 release.

Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

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