Why the baby on Nirvana's "Nevermind" album is suing now

Spencer Elden was 4 months old when photographed by a family friend in 1991, drifting naked in a swimming pool. The photo, taken at the...


Spencer Elden was 4 months old when photographed by a family friend in 1991, drifting naked in a swimming pool.

The photo, taken at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, Calif., Will be used that year for the cover of “Nevermind,” Nirvana’s second album that helped define Gen X and propel the Seattle band to internationally renowned.

In the decades that followed, Mr. Elden appeared to celebrate his role on the classic cover, recreating the timing of the album’s release. 10th, 17th, 20th and 25 birthdays, but not bare.

“It’s cool but weird to be a part of something so important that I can’t even remember,” he said in a 2016 interview with the New York Post, in which he posed while holding the cover art. of the album at 25.

Now, however, Mr Elden, 30, has filed a federal lawsuit against the estate of Kurt Cobain, the musician’s former band mates David Grohl and Krist Novoselic, and Mr Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, among others. . He claimed that they, along with Geffen Records, who released “Nevermind”, took advantage of his nude image. It is one of the best-selling records of all time, with at least 30 million copies sold worldwide.

“The defendants knowingly produced, possessed and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in return for it,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in California on Tuesday.

Mr. Elden suffered “permanent damage” as a result of his association with the album, including emotional distress and a “lifetime loss of the ability to earn an income.” The lawsuit did not provide details of the losses and said they would be disclosed at trial.

Mr. Elden, an artist living in Los Angeles County, has been in therapy for years to understand how the album cover has affected him, said Maggie Mabie, one of his attorneys.

“He hasn’t met anyone who hasn’t seen his genitals,” she said. “It’s a constant reminder that he has no privacy. His private life is of no value to the world.

The lawsuit says Mr. Elden is asking for $ 150,000 from each of the 15 people and companies named in the lawsuit, including Kurt Weddle, the photographer who took the photo. Mr. Weddle did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Mr. Elden’s photo was chosen from dozens of baby photos Mr. Weddle photographed for the album cover, which Mr. Cobain was considering showing a baby underwater.

Mr Weddle paid Mr Elden’s parents $ 200 for the photo, which was later edited to show the baby chasing a dollar, hanging from a hook.

“They were trying to create controversy because controversy sells,” Ms. Mabie said. “The point wasn’t just to create a threatening image, but to cross the line and they did it in a way that exposed Spencer so they could take advantage of it.”

She said her client sometimes agreed when the band, media and fans asked her to recreate the photo as an adult, but he ultimately realized that only resulted in “the image. of him as a baby being further exploited “.

Representatives for Mr Cobain’s estate did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Representatives for Mr Grohl, Ms Love and Geffen Records, now part of Universal Music Group, did not respond to the messages.

Mr. Elden, who declined to comment on his lawsuit, said in a short documentary in 2015 that the album cover had “opened doors” for him. For example, he worked with Shepard Fairey, the artist who was sued by The Associated Press for using an image of Barack Obama for his play “Hope.”

Over the years, he has expressed his ambivalence about the cover.

“It would be nice to have a quarter for each person who saw my baby penis,” he said in a 2016 New York Post interview.

In another interview that year, he said he was angry people were still talking about it.

“Recently I was like, ‘What if I didn’t go along with my fucking penis being shown to everyone?’ I didn’t really have a choice ”, Mr. Elden told GQ Australia.

He said his feelings about the cover started to change “just a few months ago when I contacted Nirvana to see if they wanted to be part of my art show.”

Mr Elden said he had been referred to managers and lawyers.

“Why am I always on their cover if I’m not that important?” ” he said.

Ms Mabie said Mr Elden had long felt uneasy about the footage and expressed it in even older interviews when he was a teenager.

“Sir. Elden never consented to the use of this image or the display of these images,” she said. “Even though he recreated the images later in life, he was dressed and he was an adult and those were very different circumstances. “

Ms Mabie said her parents never gave consent for how the footage would be used.

She noted that Mr Cobain once suggested putting a sticker on the baby’s genitals after the idea of ​​the blanket was pushed back.

The artist, died in 1994, said the sticker should read, “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.” “

Mr. Elden “asks Nirvana to do what Nirvana should have done 30 years ago and redact the images of her genitals from the album cover,” Ms. Mabie said.

This trial is not a typical case of child pornography, said Mary Graw Leary, a professor at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America.

“A child’s nudity alone is not the definition of pornography,” she said. “The typical child pornography that is seen in law enforcement and prosecuted in courts can be violent. The children are young and it is very graphic.

But there are factors under federal law that allow a judge or jury to determine whether a photo of a minor “constitutes lascivious exposure of the genitals,” including whether they were the focal point of a photo, said Professor Graw Leary.

This part of the law “gives the court a little more latitude,” she said. “This is not a business with easy answers.”

Mr Elden’s earlier comments on the cover should not call into question his current claim that he has been a victim of child pornography, she added. The law does not choose between children who immediately report their abusers and children who initially were dismissive of what happened to them, she said.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we will only consider one case as criminal because in the other, the child didn’t think it was serious at the time,” said Prof Graw Leary. “We don’t just protect certain children.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Why the baby on Nirvana's "Nevermind" album is suing now
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