Spencer Elden, the baby that was photographed for the cover of Nirvana’s landmark 1991 album Nevermind, filed a federal lawsuit against Nirvana, the estate of Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and other parties early this week alleging child exploitation.
The image, taken when Elden was 4 months old at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, California by artist Kirk Weddle, is one of the most enduring images in rock history. In the decades following the release of Nevermind, Mr. Elden has paid homage to the classic record, recreating the photo for the album’s 10th, 17th, 20th and 25th anniversaries.
“It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember,” he told The New York Post in 2016.
In a change of tune, Spencer Elden has filed a federal lawsuit with California Central District Court, alleging that the album artwork amounted to “commercial child sexual exploitation.” The lawsuit names the band’s surviving members. the estate of Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, production companies and photographer Kirk Weddle.
The lawsuit claims that, “Defendants knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so.”
Spencer Elden, an artist living in Los Angeles, claims he has suffered “permanent harm” because of his association with the album. he claims to have experienced emotional distress and a “lifelong loss of income-earning capacity.” The lawsuit did not provide details about the financial losses.
“He hasn’t met anyone who hasn’t seen his genitalia,” Maggie Mabie, a lawyer representing Elden said. “It’s a constant reminder that he has no privacy. His privacy is worthless to the world.”
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The lawsuit said that Mr. Elden is seeking $150,000 from each of the 15 people and companies named in the complaint.
Check out ‘Come As You Are’ by Nirvana:
In a new report from New York Post, legal experts have weighed in on the lawsuit, naming it “frivolous,” “outrageous,” and “offensive.”
Lawyer Jamie White, who has represented thousands of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, has slammed the lawsuit as being “just outrageous on so many levels.”
“I’ve never seen a more offensive, frivolous lawsuit in the history of my career,” said White. “Not only do I not think this lawsuit will hold water, I think the attorneys will be scrutinized for even filing this thing.”
White called the suit “really offensive to the true victims” of child pornography, saying that “the people that traffic in this garbage do it for sexual gratification.”
“The idea that the Nirvana album is for the purpose of gratification sexually is just such a ridiculous outrage,” he said.
“This is a money grab and … I would look for a court to dismiss because it’s frivolous and it really is offensive to what we have all been doing in trying to protect children from the harm they are alleging here.”
Elsen’s Lawyer James Marsh, denounce those claiming the lawsuit was frivolous.
“We are dealing with real people, a real album, a real picture and a real cause of action, so the notion that this is frivolous … is sort of laughable because frivolous lawsuits are [cases where] you’ve got a hangnail or something,” Marsh told The Post.
“This is something that happened without his consent long before he was in a position of giving consent. This is also an album that was very controversial from the very first day,” Marsh said.