Spencer Elden, who appeared nude underwater as a four-month-old baby on the famous cover of Nirvana‘s 1991 album Nevermind, has appealed a September dismissal of his child pornography lawsuit against the surviving members of the band, Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, Universal Music Group, and cover photographer Kirk Weddle.
Elden, 31, has previously expressed both approval and dismay about being associated with the album cover. As recently as 2016, he recreated the pose and album art in a photoshoot. In the lead-up to the 30th anniversary of Nevermind, he apparently changed his mind about the nature of the photo, filing a lawsuit seeking significant financial damages for “unlawful conduct” that he says has caused him “permanent harm.” The suit was dismissed without prejudice on Sept. 2, but has now been officially appealed by Elden and his attorneys.
In the new filing with California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, they claim the presiding judge ruled in error that a statute of limitations applies to the case, because the harm Elden suffered from the photo is ongoing. They’ve also invoked Masha’s Law, signed in 2006, which allows child pornography victims 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, who also claimed Cobain “described his twisted vision for the Nevermind album cover as a manifestation of his emotional and sexual disturbances” in “several journal entries.”
“Cobain’s preoccupation with pornographic imagery started at a very early age,” they continued. “One of Cobain’s school classmates discovered him drawing pornography as a young child.”
Elden “is aware that Appellees are commercially exploiting the frontal nude image of him as a four–month–old child to sell a[n] album to millions of people (many of whom he does not know) around the world,” the appeal said. “This understandably causes him extreme ongoing psychic or emotional injury for which he is entitled to damages and an injunction. 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.”
Surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, along with Love, Weddle, and Universal Music Group, have not commented on these developments.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.