Culture

The Baby Who Appeared on Nirvana's 'Nevermind' Album Cover Is Suing the Band for Child Pornography

(Nirvana album cover)

If you grew up in the ’90s, you know about Nirvana’s album Nevermind. The mere mention of it should instantly conjure up images in your mind of the iconic cover, with the baby underwater swimming toward a dollar bill on a fish hook.

Well, that baby is now 30 years old, and he’s suing the band for child pornography.

Yeah, you read that right.

Spencer Elden filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court that he will “suffer lifelong damages” because of the band Nirvana, which Elden is accusing of “knowingly producing, possessing and advertising ‘commercial child pornography'” for using the photo of him on the cover of the 1991 hit album.

“(The) defendants intentionally commercially marketed Spencer’s child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential element of a record promotion scheme commonly utilized in the music industry to get attention, wherein album covers posed children in a sexually provocative manner to gain notoriety, drive sales, and garner media attention, and critical reviews.”

“Spencer’s true identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor which has been distributed and sold worldwide from the time he was a baby to the present day,” the lawsuit continues.

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Elden wants $150,000 from each of the 17 named defendants, which includes the surviving band members, Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, and various entities connected to the album and the record company that produced it.

Elden’s lawsuit is problematic. For starters, his parents clearly consented to baby Spencer being used as the model for the cover and were paid for it. Spencer himself has taken advantage of the pseudo fame from being the “Nevermind baby” as he participated in recreations of the cover for its 15th and 25th anniversaries, and has spoken positively about it in public in the past.

“It’s only opened doors for me and been a really positive, fun experience,” he said.

Elden’s parents were reportedly paid $200 for the photoshoot. The lawsuit also says his parents even signed a release authorizing the use of his image.

It seems to me that Elden is looking for a nice settlement. Nevermind was an unexpected commercial success and has sold 30 million copies. Elden no doubt wants a piece of that. He may end up getting some six-figure settlement just to make this lawsuit go away, but it ought to be thrown out.