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Baby from Nevermind album cover sues Nirvana

25 August 2021, 10:04 | Written by Cerys Kenneally

Spencer Elden, who was photographed at four-months-old for Nirvana's Nevermind album, has launched legal action against the band, photographer and various record labels.

Elden, now 30, appeared as the baby on Nirvana's iconic 1991 album Nevermind, and yesterday (24 August) he filed a lawsuit against 15 defendants including the band's Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, the late Kurt Cobain and his estate (including Courtney Love, who is executor of his estate), photographer Kirk Weddle, and multiple record labels.

The lawsuit documents, which were posted by Pitchfork, allege that the defendants have violated "federal criminal child pornography statutes", and Elden is seeking damages of $150,000 (£109,000).

Elden claims that Cobain agreed to "strategically" cover his genitals with a sticker that read: "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile", but the band chose to release the album without the sticker.

He alleges that his name is "forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor" due to the "iconic image associated with Nirvana", which is "one of the most-recognized album covers of all time".

The lawsuit highlights that while Nirvana "sold and profited from over 30 million copies of Nevermind", Elden "never received any compensation". Elden also claims that he and his legal guardians never "signed a release authorizing the use of any images".

As a result of the Nevermind cover, Elden claims he has suffered "permanent harm" including "emotional distress", development and educational "interference", "loss of enjoyment of life" and more.

Despite recreating the album cover numerous times while growing up and getting Nevermind tattooed on his chest, Elden did express a change of heart in an interview with GQ Australia back in 2016. He said, "Recently I’ve been thinking, ‘What if I wasn’t OK with my freaking penis being shown to everybody?’
I didn’t really have a choice."

On why he changed his mind about the cover, Elden said at the time, "Just a few months ago, when 
I was reaching out to Nirvana to see if they wanted to be part of my art show. I was getting referred to their managers and their lawyers. Why am I still on their cover if 
I’m not that big of a deal?"

When asked about if it affected relationships, Elden responded, "Totally. Everyone thinks you’re making money from it. You’ll hook up with a hot chick, and then they figure out you’re not making any money from it and they’ll dump you."

Representatives for Nirvana and the record labels involved are yet to respond to the claims.
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