The man who featured as the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind is suing the former band members and the estate of Kurt Cobain over the infamous naked photograph. The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by Spencer Elden. The now 30-year-old man has claimed that the band and their label violated a range of federal child pornography laws, and has alleged that his parents never signed a release allowing Nirvana to use the photograph, let alone for commercial purposes.
The complaint was filed to the Los Angeles federal court. It states that Eden’s “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 suit argues that the defendants “knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so. Despite this knowledge, defendants failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking.”
The famous photograph depicts a four-month-old Eden floating in a swimming pool and reaching for a dollar bill hanging in front of him. According to the lawsuit, the picture – which was apparently chosen by Cobain – is evocative of “sex worker grabbing for a dollar bill.” It has been alleged that the photograph was specifically asked for by Kurt Cobain.
Eden has claimed that his parents were never asked by the band or label to use the photograph and that he has not received any compensation for it. The lawsuit claims that in order to get the photograph (taken at Pasadena aquatic centre in 1990): “Weddle activated Spencer’s ‘gag reflex’ before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer’s exposed genitals”. It is alleged this was done to trigger the most visceral sexual reaction from the viewer.
Eden has also argued that the Nevermind album “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.”
A settlement has not yet been reached.