Spencer Elden, photographed as a baby for the album cover nevermind from Nirvana, and is now suing the band for alleged sexual exploitation.
The cover shows four-month-old Elden in a swimming pool, trying to grab a dollar bill that hangs in front of him on a fishing hook.
Now 30, Elden says his parents never signed a permit to use an image in the album.
He also claims that the nude image constitutes child pornography.
“The images exposed the intimate part of Spencer’s body and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was a baby to the present day”, state documents from the process filed in California.
Unsexualized baby photos are generally not considered child pornography under US law.
However, Elden’s attorney, Robert Y. Lewis, argues that the inclusion of the dollar bill (which was superimposed after the photograph was taken) makes the smaller one look like “a sex worker.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Nirvana promised to cover Elden’s genitals with a patch, but that the deal was not followed through.
Elden claims that his “true identity and name are forever linked to the commercial sexual exploitation he suffered as a child, distributed and sold around the world from an infant to the present day.”
He says he “has suffered and will continue to suffer lifelong damage” as a consequence of the album cover, including “extreme and permanent emotional stress” as well as “interference with his normal development and educational progress” and “medical and psychological treatment “.
He seeks damages of at least $150,000 (about R$795,000) from each of the 15 defendants, who include living band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; Kurt Cobain’s estate manager; Cobain’s ex-wife Courtney Love; and photographer Kirk Weddle.
Representatives of Nirvana and its record companies have yet to respond to the allegations.
Elden recreated the album cover a few times as a teenager and adult — always wearing shorts — to mark the 10th, 20th and 25th anniversaries of nevermind.
But, at times, he expressed ambiguity about the photo shoot. In 2016, he told Time Magazine that he “was a little bummed” by his notoriety as he grew up.
“I woke up already being part of this great project,” he said.
“It’s very difficult — you feel famous for nothing.”
“It’s hard not to be upset when you hear how much money was involved,” he continued.
“[Quando] I go to a baseball game and think about it, ‘Dude, everyone at this baseball game has probably seen my little penis as a baby,’ I feel like I’ve had some of my human rights revoked.”
In other interviews, he was more satisfied with the image.
“It has always been a positive thing and it has opened doors for me,” he told British newspaper The Guardian six years ago.
“I’m 23 years old and I’m an artist, and this story gave me the opportunity to work with Shepard Fairey for five years, which was an amazing experience. thought it was really cool.”
In 2008, Spencer’s father, Rick, told about the photo shoot to the American radio network NPR, saying he had received an offer of $200 from Weddle, a family friend, to participate.
“We had a big pool party, and no one had any idea what was going on!”
The family forgot the photo shoot until, three months later, they saw the album cover nevermind emblazoned on the facade of the Tower Records record store in Los Angeles.
Two months after that, says an NPR report, “Geffen Records sent 1-year-old Spencer Elden a platinum album and a teddy bear.”
The album, which includes the hits Smells Like Teen Spirit, eat as you are and Lithium, has sold 30 million copies worldwide.
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