Nirvana baby loses child pornography lawsuit against band

Daisy Phillipson

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Nirvana baby loses child pornography lawsuit against band

Featured Image Credit: Splash News/DGC Records

The man who appeared as a baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind album has lost his child pornography lawsuit against the band.

Spencer Elden, now 31, filed a lawsuit against the two surviving members of the band as well as Kurt Cobain’s estate, several record labels and photographer Kirk Weddle, claiming that neither he nor his guardians consented to his image being used for the album.

He also alleged that the cover violates federal child pornography laws, arguing that the famous photo of him swimming naked in a pool as a baby depicts a sexualised image of a minor. 

However, US District Judge Fernando Olguin of Los Angeles ruled that Elden’s legal action was filed far too late, with such cases having a 10-year statute of limitations. 

The judge ruled in favour of Nirvana's representatives. Credit: United Archives GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo
The judge ruled in favour of Nirvana's representatives. Credit: United Archives GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

In court documents obtained by Billboard, the judge wrote: “Because it is undisputed that plaintiff did not file his complaint within ten years after he discovered a violation that could form the basis for his [child pornography] claim, the court concludes that his claim is untimely.”

The decision reflects statements made by lawyers representing Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Weddle, UMG Recordings and Courtney Love, as executor of Cobain’s estate, after they filed a motion to dismiss the case in December 2021.

The legal team similarly questioned why Elden waited until now to raise objections about the image, adding that he ‘spent three decades profiting from his celebrity as the self-anointed “Nirvana Baby”.'

The dismissal of Elden’s third version of the complaint means he’s unable to file a fourth, although he is entitled to appeal the decision. 

Elden was four months old when the photo was taken, as his dad was friends with Weddle, who paid the family $200 to dunk the baby in a pool at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California.

Elden previously claimed he experienced ‘extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations’, as well as ‘interference with his normal development and educational progress’ and ‘lifelong loss of income earning capacity’ as a result of the 1991 album artwork. 

In light of the legal action, many people focused on how Elden’s feelings about his association with the album cover have changed over the years, having previously recreated the image as an adult and getting the title of the album tattooed on his chest.

In a 2015 interview with The Guardian, he said: “It’s always been a positive thing and opened doors for me.” But a year later, speaking GQ Australia, he revealed that he’d grown to become ‘p***ed off’ with the cover, describing the use of his image as ‘f***ed up’.

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Topics: Music, Dave Grohl, News

Daisy Phillipson
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