The man, now 30, pictured as a baby on the cover of the multi-million-selling Nirvana album no matter filed a lawsuit today in Los Angeles, alleging that former members of the grunge-rock trio, various record companies, artistic directors and others violated federal criminal laws on child pornography and caused him lifelong suffering by ” tampering ”with his image all over the world.
Spencer Elden, of Los Angeles, alleges that his “identity and legal name are forever linked to the commercial sexual exploitation he suffered as a minor which was distributed and sold around the world from his childhood until his death. to the present day, ”according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
Messages seeking comment sent to Universal Music Group and to an attorney representing Nirvana LLC were not immediately responded to.
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According to the lawsuit, the defendants “knowingly produced, possessed and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so … Despite this knowledge, the defendants failed to take reasonable steps. to protect Spencer and prevent his sexual exploitation and trafficking in images.
Elden’s parents never signed a waiver authorizing the use of the photos taken of the four-month-old baby at an aquatic center in Pasadena in 1990 and Elden received no compensation, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys.
The cover of no matter – released in 1991 by the Geffen / UMG label – depicts a naked baby swimming underwater, apparently towards a hook with a dollar bill attached. It is one of the most famous album covers in rock.
To make sure the album cover would trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer, (photographer Kirk) Weddle activated Spencer’s ‘gag reflex’ before tossing him underwater in stressful poses and highlighting. ’emphasis on Spencer’s exposed genitals,’ the costume alleges.
The lawsuit argues that the album cover photo chosen by late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain suggests a “sex worker grabbing a dollar bill.”
Elden’s lawsuit alleges that the defendants “used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential part of a record promotion program commonly used in the music industry to gain attention, in which the cover art ‘albums posed children in sexually provocative ways to gain notoriety, increase sales and attract the media. attention and criticism.
As a result, Elden “has suffered and will continue to suffer damage for life,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks either $ 150,000 from each of the 17 defendants, or unspecified damages to be determined at trial.
Geffen Records originally shipped 46,521 copies of no matter to retailers hoping to eventually sell 200,000 copies. The album, a cornerstone of the grunge era, eventually sold over 30 million copies.
City News Service contributed to this report.