Nirvana Sued Over Famous Album Cover

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Isabelly Cizerza, Staff Writer

As we approach the 30th anniversary of Nirvana’s award-winning album, Nevermind, the band faces an unexpected turn of events. Spencer Elden, the man photographed as a baby for the album cover, is suing just about every band member for sexual exploitation.

If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, or you’re just a fan of music, you might have heard of this little-known band called Nirvana. Many consider the punk rock group to be the most notable name and sound of the grunge era. Whether you love them or hate them, there is no doubt that you recognize the cover art from their most famous album, Nevermind. The iconic photo consists of four-month-old Spencer Elden, naked in a pool, seemingly chasing a dollar bill attached to a fish hook. The image has generally been understood as a statement on capitalism, as it implies that even an infant is money hungry. However, on August 24th, 2021, Elden filed a lawsuit against Nirvana for $150,000, claiming that the image crosses into child pornography as it implies the baby being a sex worker chasing after money.

Throughout the years, Elden had always seemed supportive of the album’s success. He has repeatedly recreated the cover picture to celebrate the album’s anniversaries and, at one point, even had the Nevermind emblem tattooed on his chest. When speaking about his fame in interviews accompanying these shoots, he’s never described them as pornographic. However, he has admitted to having mixed feelings as to whether he was exploited or not. Five years ago, during Nevermind’s 25th anniversary, Elden told the New York Times, “The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was four months old, and it became this really iconic image…It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember.”

The decision to sue the band for one of the most well-performing albums in history has caused many controversies, but the majority of people seem to be landing on the same question. Why now? Elden has been reported to say that he’s suffered permanent damage from his association with the album, and there is little to no financial compensation for it. The lawsuit states that his parents were only paid $200 for the initial shoot and have yet to profit from the image since. Elden and his lawyers are also trying to argue that there was never a contract consenting to use his photo. Eden also told Times, “It’s hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved… [When] I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,’ I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.”
Although some agree with Elton, saying the photo does qualify as child pornography, many people believe it’s a reach. Ana Andrade (12) says, “I don’t know; he kind of just seems money hungry. I mean, I would do the same thing if I were him, it’s a great opportunity for cash, but he’s creating all this drama for no reason. Personally, I think it’s a flex that he’s on the most iconic album ever. Why is he trying to ruin it? He could be known as this cool rock guy, but instead, he’s choosing to be known as a wus who wants money…Awkward.”
Other people, such as Mr. Dezern, just don’t care. “What? I don’t know. That sounds kind of dumb to me. Nirvana has already been sued a bunch of times before. It’s not gonna change anything,” he says.

The lawsuit has been in action for just around a month now, and nothing has been done yet. Elden will most likely lose unless more information is provided.