Nirvana has won the dismissal of a lawsuit by a man who claimed his depiction as a naked four-month-old baby on the cover of the band’s seminal 1991 album Nevermind was child pornography.
In a decision on Friday (Sep 2), US District Judge Fernando Olguin in Los Angeles said Spencer Elden waited too long to claim Nirvana sexually exploited him, having sued more than 10 years after learning about the cover.
Other defendants included Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, late lead singer Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, several record labels and photographer Kirk Weddle.
The lawsuit stemmed from Nirvana’s use of a photo taken by Weddle in 1991 at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California, which depicted Elden swimming naked toward a dollar bill pierced with a fish hook.
Elden was interviewed in 2003 at age 12 by Rolling Stone magazine about the photo, saying he was “probably gonna get some money from it”, and recreated the image as an adult in 2016 with Nevermind tattooed on his chest.
He nevertheless claimed in his lawsuit, which began in August 2021, that he met the statute of limitations because his injuries including emotional distress, lost earning capacity and “loss of enjoyment of life” continued into adulthood.
The judge rejected that argument, saying it would effectively permit Elden to sue Nirvana indefinitely.
“In sum, plaintiff fails to allege that he knew of a violation that occurred while he was a minor or an injury that forms the basis of the claim within ten years of filing this action,” Olguin wrote.
Elden had filed three versions of his complaint, and Olguin’s dismissal prevents him from filing a fourth.
A lawyer for Elden did not immediately respond on Saturday to requests for comment.
Bert Deixler, a lawyer for the defendants, said: “We are pleased that this meritless case has been brought to a speedy final conclusion.”
Nevermind features the song Smells Like Teen Spirit. Sales topped 30 million.