Dave Grohl has some thoughts on the potential of changing the cover to Nirvana’s Nevermind in light of a recent lawsuit filed by Spencer Elden, who famously appeared on the album’s cover as a baby.
As previously reported, Elden filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in the Central District of California in August on charges of child pornography. A number of defendants were listed including the surviving member of Nirvana, Universal Music Group, Geffen Records, Nevermind photographer Kirk Weddle, Courtney Love (who’s the executor of Kurt Cobain’s estate), and Chad Channing, who was Nirvana’s original drummer that was initially uncredited for playing cymbals on the track “Polly.”
The lawsuit states, in part, “Defendants knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so…Despite this knowledge, Defendants failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking.”
When asked about potentially changing the artwork, Grohl told The Sunday Times (as transcribed by Ultimate Classic Rock due the interview being behind a paywall), “I have many ideas of how we should alter that cover but we’ll see what happens. We’ll let you know. I’m sure we’ll come up with something good…I think that there’s much more to look forward to and much more to life than getting bogged down in those kinds of things. And, fortunately, I don’t have to do the paperwork.”
Various legal experts weighed in on the lawsuit shortly after it made headlines. The Hollywood Reporter reached out to some attorneys about the lawsuit to get their opinion. The outlet wrote, “Bryan Sullivan, an entertainment litigation partner at Early Sullivan, says the suit is ‘ridiculous,’ and that even if there wasn’t a written agreement, which he doubts, Elden’s claims are weak. ‘I think it is highly unlikely that a record company would use a photograph for an album cover without verifying the existence of a release signed by the parents,’ he says. ‘But, if is there is no release, it does not mean he has a claim for child pornography. As to the right of privacy, you can waive it by your actions or by his parents’ actions in allowing him to be photographed.'”
The Hollywood Reporter quoted another entertainment litigator, who was unnamed in the piece, who stated, “I think what will be most troubling for any judge will be the amount of time that has elapsed since the photo was published, the fact the kid’s parents did this knowingly (more or less, but they knew the naked baby was being photographed), and the numerous times that the plaintiff himself embraced the photo and sought publicity for himself.”
Elden has publically recreated the iconic album cover multiple times. Per the BBC, he has recreated the image of himself in a pool on the 10th, 17th, 20th and 25th anniversaries of Nevermind.