Nirvana Faces Revived Lawsuit Over ‘Nevermind’ Album Art in Federal Court

Nirvana’s iconic ‘Nevermind’ album cover controversy resurfaces as federal appeals court revives Spencer Elden’s lawsuit.

Elden’s legal action claims enduring harm from the band’s use of his image for profit.

The lawsuit asserts that the album cover, featuring Elden as a four-month-old reaching for a dollar bill on a fish hook in a swimming pool, violated federal laws on child sexual exploitation. 

Elden alleges permanent damage from the circulation and profit garnered by the image. The legal action centers on the assertion of exploitation, despite the absence of any filed criminal charges.

A federal judge in California initially dismissed Elden’s lawsuit last year, but allowed him to file a revised version. However, the revised lawsuit was subsequently rejected because it was outside the 10-year statute of limitations for one of the laws cited in the case.

However, a three-judge panel from the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this ruling, deeming that each republication of the image could constitute a new injury, potentially resetting the statute of limitations. 

They highlighted the image’s reappearance on the album’s 30th anniversary edition in 2021 as a possible new instance.

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Revived Lawsuit Over Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ Cover

Nirvana’s iconic ‘Nevermind’ album cover controversy resurfaces as federal appeals court revives Spencer Elden’s lawsuit.

Despite the court’s decision, it clarified that the debate over whether the album cover constitutes child pornography was not the focal point of the appeal.

Responding to the ruling, a representative for Nirvana members expressed confidence in defending against the lawsuit, considering it a “procedural setback.” 

Attorney Bert Deixler asserted their intent to vigorously contest the case.

The lawsuit has reignited discussions about the ethical use of images and the boundaries between artistic expression and exploitation. 

Elden’s case underscores the complexities and legal nuances surrounding the use of an image in the realm of commercial art.

As the legal battle continues, the decision to revive the lawsuit sets the stage for a protracted legal struggle between Elden and the iconic band.

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