On August 24, Spencer Elden filed a case to sue the rock band Nirvana.
A lot of people might not know his name, but they’ve most likely seen his face (or at least his baby face). One of Elden’s baby photos includes that of him submerged underwater and grabbing at a digitally imposed image of a bill on a hook.
The album has generally been known as a statement on capitalism, but Elden’s lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, describes the image of Elden in that photo as “like a sex worker” as he reaches out for the bill while nude underwater. “Defendants intentionally commercially marketed Spencer’s child pornography,” states the lawsuit filed “and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense.”
Maggie Mabie, one of the attorneys handling Elden’s case, believes that the band was banking on “controversy sells” to sell their album. Relying on the shock value of the album cover to drive up sales.
Elden is working with the Marsh Law Firm, based in New York. The firm specializes in cases that revolve around the sexual exploitation of children, which may explain their persistence on the child pornography angle.
Why now? Mabie estimates that this case has been in the works for “over a year.” Further explaining that Elden still has the right to sue because the album and its cover are continuously being distributed to this day.
“Even as a child, Spencer expressed that this was uncomfortable, and he doesn’t like the way that this puts him in a place where he really can’t (protest) that it’s an invasion of his own privacy,” Mabie says “because people come to defend the band, as opposed to protect Spencer.” The team was aware of the notice that the case may get due to the fame of the defendants, although they were not certain to what extent this may be.
“Even though he recreated the images later on in his life, he was clothed, and he was an adult.” About Elden’s multiple recreation of the photo, Mabie counters by explaining that “these were very different circumstances.”
Mabie stresses that “It takes a very long time when you are a victim of these kinds of image abuse crimes to really understand how you’ve been damaged.” She believes that there is no one who can understand how Elden feels right now other than Elden himself.