Spencer Elden, who appeared as a naked baby on one of rock music’s most iconic album covers – Nevermind by Nirvana – is suing the band, claiming he was sexually exploited as a child.
In a lawsuit filed in a Californian district court against numerous parties, including the surviving members of the band, Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, and the record labels that released or distributed the album in the last three decades, Elden alleges the defendants produced a child sexual abuse image with the photo, which features him swimming naked towards a dollar bill with his genitalia visible.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of “commercial child sexual exploitation of him from while he was a minor to the present day … defendants knowingly produced, possessed and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer”.
The lawsuit claims the image is “sexually graphic”, and says it makes Elden resemble “a sex worker – grabbing for a dollar bill”. It claims Elden was never paid for appearing on the cover, and that his parents never signed a release form for the image, which was shot specifically for the album cover. It has previously been reported that Elden was paid $250.
Elden is seeking damages of at least $150,000 from each of the 15 defendants, plus costs, and asks that the case be tried with a jury. The defendants have not yet responded to the lawsuit, or commented on it publicly. The Guardian has contacted the managers of the Nirvana estate for further comment.
Elden’s legal team Marsh Law said in a statement: “This is an issue of consent – something that our client never had the opportunity to give.”
Kirk Weddle, who shot the image, told the Guardian in 2019: “I’m still in contact with Spencer. I used to think, ‘Man, when that kid is 16 he’s gonna hate my guts!’ He doesn’t, but he’s conflicted about the picture. He feels that everybody made money off it and he didn’t. I think he deserves something. But it’s always the record labels that make the money.”