U.S. Appeals Court Revives Nirvana Lawsuit Over ‘Nevermind’ Album Cover


In a significant development, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has resurrected a lawsuit against the iconic rock band Nirvana. The lawsuit accuses the band of publishing child sexual abuse images through the use of a photograph featuring a naked four-month-old baby on the cover of their groundbreaking 1991 album, “Nevermind.”


Overturned Decision on Timing

"The 9th Circuit Court's decision resurrects Spencer Elden's legal challenge against Nirvana, accusing them of child exploitation over the iconic 'Nevermind' album cover."

The appeals court overturned a previous decision by a lower court, which had ruled that Spencer Elden, the baby depicted on the album cover, had waited too long to file the lawsuit against the influential Seattle grunge band. This ruling paves the way for Elden to proceed with his legal action.

Allegations of Child Sexual Exploitation

The court’s decision did not delve into the question of whether the “Nevermind” album cover constitutes an image of child sexual abuse. However, it revives the legal battle surrounding the controversial use of the photograph.


Nirvana’s Response and Legal Perspective

Nirvana’s attorney, Bert Deixler, addressed the setback, stating, “This procedural setback does not change our view. We will defend this meritless case with vigor and expect to prevail.” Elden’s attorney, Robert Lewis, expressed Elden’s satisfaction with the decision and his anticipation of presenting his case in court.

Background of the Lawsuit

Spencer Elden, now 32, initiated the legal action in 2021, accusing Nirvana and its label Universal Music Group of sexually exploiting him through his portrayal on the “Nevermind” album cover. The lawsuit involves not only the band but also surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, late lead singer Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, and photographer Kirk Weddle.


Controversial Album Cover Details

The lawsuit centers around the photograph taken by Kirk Weddle at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California. The image features Elden swimming naked toward a dollar bill pierced on a fish hook. The legal dispute originated from Nirvana’s use of this photo, and the court’s decision opens the door for Elden to pursue legal action, especially considering Nirvana’s recent republication of the album cover.

Court’s Rationale for Reversal

US District Judge Fernando Olguin in Los Angeles had previously dismissed Elden’s lawsuit, citing that it fell outside a 10-year limitations period after learning of the album cover. However, the unanimous 9th Circuit panel reversed this decision, allowing Elden to proceed with the lawsuit based on Nirvana’s more recent republication of the cover, including in the 2021 re-release of “Nevermind.”

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