Spencer Elden, the man whose baby photo was put on the album cover for Nirvana’s Nevermind, is suing the music band for damages.
The cover shows Elden as a four-month-old in a swimming pool, trying to reach for a dollar bill that’s being dangled in front of him on a fishing line.
The man who is now 30, says his parents never signed a release authorising the use of his image on the album.
He also alleges sexual exploitation, stating that the nude image constitutes child pornography.
“The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day,” legal papers filed in California claim.
Non-sexualised photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under U.S. law.
However, Elden’s lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, argues that the inclusion of the dollar bill (which was superimposed after the photograph was taken) makes the minor seem “like a sex worker”.
The legal case also alleges that Nirvana had promised to cover Elden’s genitals with a sticker, but the agreement was not upheld.
Elden alleges his “true identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor which has been distributed and sold worldwide from the time he was a baby to the present day”.
He claims he “has suffered and will continue to suffer lifelong damages” as a result of the artwork, including “extreme and permanent emotional distress” as well as “interference with his normal development and educational progress” and “medical and psychological treatment”.
He is asking for damages of at least $150,000 (N61.8 million) from each of the 15 defendants, totalling $22.5 million (N93 billion). The defendants include surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; the managers of Kurt Cobain’s estate; Cobain’s former wife Courtney Love; and photographer Kirk Weddle.
Elden has recreated the album cover several times as a teenager and adult – always wearing swimming trunks – to mark Nevermind’s 10th, 20th and 25th anniversaries.