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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 30- year-old man who appeared nude at 4 months old in 1991 on the cover of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album is suing the band and others, alleging the image is child pornography they have profited from.
The lawsuit, filed by Spencer Elden on Tuesday in federal court in California, alleges that Nirvana and the record labels behind “Nevermind” “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 says Elden has suffered “lifelong damages“ from the ubiquitous image of him naked underwater appearing to swim after a dollar bill on a fish hook.
It seeks at least $150,000 from each of more than a dozen defendants, including the Kurt Cobain estate, sur- viving Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl and Geffen Records.
Elden is filing the lawsuit now because he “finally has the courage to hold these actors accountable,” one of his attorneys, Maggie Mabie, told The Associated Press Wednesday.
Mabie said despite the photo being 30 years old, the lawsuit is within the statute of limitations of federal child pornography law for several reasons, including the fact that the image is still in circu- lation and earning money.
Elden also wants any new versions of the album altered. “If there is a 30th anniversary re-release, he wants for the entire world not to see his genitals,” Mabie said.
When the cover was shot, Nirvana was a little-known grunge band with no sense they were making a genera- tion-defining album in “Nevermind,“ their first major label release, whose songs included “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come as You Are” and “Lithium.”
Elden’s father was a friend of the photographer, Kirk Weddle, who took pictures of several swimming babies in several scenarios at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena, California.
“Cobain chose the image depicting Spencer — like a sex worker — grabbing for a dollar bill that is positioned dangling from a fishhook in front of his nude body with his penis explicitly displayed,” the law- suit says.