As TMZ reports and according to legal documents uploaded by Pitchfork, Elden has sued the above parties as well as ‘Nevermind’ album artwork photographer Kirk Weddle and designer Robert Fisher; the labels responsible for the album’s release, including Universal Music and Geffen Records; and Nirvana’s drummer from 1988 to 1990, Chad Channing.
Filed August 24, the lawsuit claims that the defendants have “violated” federal child pornography statutes and that Elden sustained “injuries” and “lifelong damages” as a result of the defendants’ “commercial child sexual exploitation of him from while he was a minor to the present day”.
Neither Grohl, Novoselic nor the estate of Cobain has publicly responded to the lawsuit. NME has reached out to Weddle and Guy Oseary, a manager of Cobain’s estate named in the filing, for comment.
Spencer Elden on the cover of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’
The lawsuit alleges that the band “failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking”.
The lawsuit claims that “Cobain agreed to redact Spencer’s image” with a sticker bearing the text “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile” – as detailed by the 1993 Nirvana biography Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana – though the album was ultimately released without a sticker.
“Neither Spencer nor his legal guardians ever signed a release authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness,” the lawsuit claims, “and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him.” It also claims that Elden never received any compensation following the commercial success of ‘Nevermind’.
Elden is seeking actual damages, or liquidated damages amounting to $150,000 per defendant, attorney’s fees and a trial by jury.
Elden, who is now 30, was just a few months old when he was photographed for the cover of ‘Nevermind’. In a 2016 TIME interview marking the 25th anniversary of the album, Elden said he had not come fully to terms with appearing on the cover, and that he had previously looked into legal action against label Geffen Records.
“It’s hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved,” he said. “[When] I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,’ I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.” Elden also told TIME that he tried reaching out to the band, but was unsuccessful.