Lawsuit Over Naked Baby on Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ Is Revived

A federal appeals court recently ruled against the iconic grunge rock band Nirvana in a high-profile lawsuit related to the cover of their classic 1991 album “Nevermind”. The lawsuit, brought by Spencer Elden, the now-adult man who appeared as a naked baby on the album cover, alleged that he was a victim of child sexual abuse imagery and had suffered permanent harm and emotional distress as a result of his association with the album.

Initially, a district court judge had dismissed Elden’s lawsuit on the grounds that it had not been filed within the 10-year statute of limitations. However, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned that decision, stating that each republication of an image may constitute a new personal injury. The appeals court noted that Elden’s 2021 complaint alleged that Nirvana had reproduced the album cover within the past 10 years, including a rerelease in September 2021.

The case will now return to the district court, with Nirvana’s lawyer, Bert H. Deixler, calling the ruling a “procedural setback” and expressing confidence that the band will ultimately prevail in the case.

The photograph in question was taken in 1991 when Elden was just 4 months old. His parents were paid $200 for the picture, which was later altered to show the baby chasing a dollar, dangling from a fishhook. In the decades following the album’s release, Elden has made public appearances parodying the image and seemed to celebrate his association with the album cover.

Nirvana’s legal team has argued that Elden has financially benefited from the album cover by re-enacting the photograph for a fee, and have denied that the picture constitutes child sexual abuse imagery.

The legal battle surrounding the “Nevermind” album cover raises complex questions about the intersection of art, exploitation, and the evolving standards of what constitutes appropriate imagery in popular culture.

It is notable that the “Nevermind” album cover has become an iconic symbol of the grunge rock era and holds immense cultural significance not only in the music world but also in the broader context of 1990s pop culture. The album itself was a seminal work that helped define a generation and continues to be celebrated for its impact on the music industry.

In conclusion, this ongoing legal dispute serves as a thought-provoking examination of the blurred lines between art, personal rights, and societal norms. It will be interesting to see how the case unfolds and what implications it may have for the future use of controversial imagery in popular music.

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