Thirty years after the album was released, Nirvana are now facing a lawsuit for their classic effort, Nevermind. The band’s surviving members and the estate of Kurt Cobain were sued by Spencer Elden, who is the baby that appears on the album’s cover. According to documents obtained by Pitchfork, Elden claims that the band broke federal child pornography laws. He also argues for child sexual exploitation claims against them. Kirk Weddle, the photographer behind the cover for Nevermind was also named in the lawsuit.
Elden says that he’s suffered “lifelong damages” as a result of the 1991 album and notes that’s his legal guardians never signed paperwork “authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness, and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him.” Additionally, he’s suing the band, Cobain’s estate, and the photography for distribution of private sexually explicit materials, negligence, and what’s listed as a “sex trafficking venture” in which Elden “was forced to engage in commercial sexual acts while under the age of 18 years old.”
The lawsuit is seeking seeking damages, attorney fees, a court order to stop all parties involved “from continuing to engage in the unlawful acts and practices described herein,” as well as a trial by jury. The court documents also add:
The permanent harm he has proximately suffered includes but is not limited to extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and educational progress, lifelong loss of income earning capacity, loss of past and future wages, past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other losses to be described and proven at trial of this matter.
It should be noted that Elden recreated the Nevermind cover several times and had the album title tattooed on his chest. Despite this, he mentioned his distaste for the artwork during a 2016 interview with GQ Australia. “It’s f*cked up,” he said. “I’m pissed off about it, to be honest.”