Who could forget? The iconic picture of a naked baby in the iconic front cover of Nirvana’s 1991 award-winning hit album that reached number one status on January 11, 1992, with hits including “Smells like teen spirit” and “Come as you are”, cowering even the King of Pop Michael Jackson’s Dangerous at the top of the Billboard charts. At its peak, ‘Nevermind’ sold 300,000 copies a week and was eventually certified Gold and Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in November 1991 and certified Diamond in March 1999.
The baby in the album cover, by the name of Spencer Elden has returned to haunt the Nirvana Estate in the form of a lawsuit that alleged that Spencer was a victim of child pornography. According to the lawsuit, the album cover depicting the then four month old Spencer Elden underwater reaching for a dollar bill violates both the “commercial sex act” and “sex trafficking venture,” under the definition of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
Although non-sexualized nude photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under the US law, the inclusion of the US dollar bill currency in the shot has made the baby appear “like a sex worker.” said Robert Y. Lewis, the attorney representing Spencer Elden.
Smells like…something fishy
Media outlets are quick to notice and pointed out that Elden celebrated the attention received from the photograph of him as an infant, by recreating the cover image for the 10th, 17th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries of the album, Nevermind, even to the extent of having those words tattooed across his chest.
Additionally, In 2016, Elden recreated his swimming baby pose in a pool as an adult and goes as far as telling the New York Post that he wanted to take the shot naked.
Elden has requested for at least $150,000 in compensation from each of the defendants, including surviving band members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and several members of the Cobain’s estate as well as a number of existing or defunct record companies that released or distributed the album over the last three decades.
According to a 1992 report by Entertainment Weekly, the family of Elden was paid $520 but neither Elden nor his guardians had signed a release authorizing the use of the image for the album cover.
What do you think? Was Elden deliberately looking to cash in on the circumstance?