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Nirvana wins ‘Nevermind’ cover art lawsuit

Nirvana’s album, Nevermind made its final appearance in court last week. The judge ruled in the band’s favour, which sees the ridiculous cover art lawsuit resolved permanently.

Nirvana has won a lawsuit over the cover art of their 1991 album, Nevermind for the “last” time, preventing the plaintiff, Spencer Elden from further filings on the matter. 

Back in August of 2021, Spencer Elden filed a lawsuit in which he accused Nirvana of violating federal pornography laws in relation to an image of him swimming naked as an infant in a pool. This image is featured in the cover artwork of Nirvana’s second studio album, Nevermind. The iconic album was first launched in 1991, and marked the band’s first release as a signed act to a major label. It was also their first collection of tracks to feature Davel Grohl on drums.

Nevermind lawsuit
Credit: John Chapple

Though the lawsuit was dismissed in January, Elden refiled immediately after, unhappy with the outcome, and amended the original complaint by removing charges of child sex trafficking, and instead citing the photograph as child pornography. On Friday (August 2), Judge Fernando Olguin noted that Elden had waited too long to allege he had been exploited, and took this as a strike against him, stating: “In sum, plaintiff fails to allege that he knew of a violation that occurred while he was a minor or an injury that forms the basis of the claim within 10 years of filing this action.” 

The dismissal prevents Elden from filing a further lawsuit on the subject. Bert Deixler, the lawyer representing Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Courtney Love (executor of the Kirk Cobain estate), Kirk Weddle (the cover photographer), UMG Recordings and Nirvana LLC, said, “we are pleased that this meritless case has been brought to a speedy final conclusion.”

In previous complaints, Elden stated that the cover artwork was nothing more than a child sexual abuse image that had caused him “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations,” blaming the image for “a loss of education, wages, and enjoyment of life.”

Representatives for Nirvana hit back to these claims by stating the complainant had “spent three decades profiting from his celebrity as the self-anointed Nirvana Baby”, citing Elden had used his placement on the album for financial and personal leverage, in particular, Elden’s recreation of the album’s 15th and 20th anniversaries.

“(Elden) has re-enacted the photograph in exchange for a fee, many times; he has had the album title ‘Nevermind’ tattooed across his chest; he has appeared on a talk show wearing a self-parodying, nude-colored onesie; he has autographed copies of the album cover for sale on eBay; and he has used the connection to try to pick up women.”

Finally, the case is closed, and Nevermind can get back to being one of the most iconic album covers of all time.