A federal judge on Friday tossed out a “child pornography” lawsuit filed by the man who appeared as the naked baby on the cover of Nirvana’s iconic 1991 album “Nevermind,” handing a victory to the band after a yearlong legal battle.
The ruling is likely the end of 31-year-old Spencer Elden’s litigation against Nirvana. Elden first sued the grunge rock band last year, alleging they had engaged in “child pornography” because the album cover featured a photo of him as a naked baby, swimming in a pool toward a dollar bill on a fish hook.
U.S. District Court Judge Fernando Olguin in the Central District of California dismissed the case because Elden did not file the complaint within the 10-year statute of limitations for victims of sexual assaults or offenses. That statute requires him to file a complaint within 10 years of becoming reasonably aware of the personal injury.
“Plaintiff does not dispute that he knew of injuries arising from defendant’s activities related to their use of his image on the ‘Nevermind’ album cover more than ten years before he filed this action,” Olguin wrote in his opinion, agreeing with the defendants, who asked for a dismissal because of the statute limitation.
Elden was four months old when Nirvana hired Kirk Weddle to photograph him in a California pool for the album.
Upon its release, “Nevermind” brought the band international fame and is widely considered to be one of the best rock albums of all time.
In August 2021, Elden sued Nirvana; Weddle; the estate of the late Kurt Cobain; Dave Grohl, the band’s former drummer; bassist Krist Novoselic and Universal Music Group, among other defendants.
In January, Olguin ordered the case would be dismissed unless Elden filed an amended complaint, which he did that month, seeking $150,000 in damages.
In the amended complaint, Elden argues the album cover features a “lascivious exhibition” of his “genitals on the cover.”
“The conduct depicted, particularly the activation of Spencer’s gag reflex and the prominence and positioning of his genitals in the image, suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity,” the complaint reads. “The image was intended and designed to elicit a sexual response.”
Nirvana and the other defendants pushed back, saying the now-famous photograph is protected by artistic expression and the photo evokes images of a cherub, or an angelic baby.
The defendants also accused Elden of “profiting from his celebrity as the self-anointed ‘Nirvana Baby’” and picking up women with the title.