Is Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ Album Cover Child Pornography? The US Court of Appeals Just Revived the Case

Nirvana Nevermind album is it child pornography?
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Nirvana Nevermind album is it child pornography?
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Photo Credit: Theresa Arzadon-Labajo / CC by 2.0

Despite a lower court ruling that the statute of limitations had passed on Spencer Elden’s child pornography lawsuit against Nirvana, a federal appeals court revives the case.

On Thursday, December 21, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against Nirvana, reviving a child pornography lawsuit filed by Spencer Elden, the man who appeared as a naked baby on the cover of the band’s 1991 album, Nevermind. Last year, a lower court ruled that Elden waited too long to sue, and the statute of limitations had passed — but now the federal appeals court’s decision overturns that ruling.

Elden, now in his 30s, claims that the photo violated federal child pornography laws by depicting a sexualized image of a minor. While the lower court ruled that he had waited far too long to sue, the federal court’s overturning decision ruled that each republication of the image — such as the 30th anniversary re-release of Nevermind in 2021 — might constitute a new “injury” to Elden, resetting the statute of limitations.

“Victims of child pornography may suffer a new injury upon the republication of the pornographic material,” wrote Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta. “This conclusion is consistent with the Supreme Court’s view that every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the victim’s abuse.

The lawsuit will return to a lower court, where Elden’s claims that the image meets the definition of child pornography must be proven — something vehemently disputed by Nirvana and their legal team. The band’s attorney Bert Deixler called the case “meritless” and the ruling a “procedural setback” that doesn’t affect his team’s arguments.

Meanwhile, Robert Lewis, lead counsel for Spencer Elden, reports that his client is “very pleased with the decision and looks forward to having his day in court.”

“The decision is important for all child pornography victims,” said Lewis.

“Spencer’s true identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor, which has been distributed and sold worldwide from the time he was a baby to the present day,” claimed Elden’s initial 2021 civil lawsuit.

The lawsuit names Nirvana’s corporate entity, Kurt Cobain’s estate, Dave Grohl, Universal Music Group, and several other individuals and companies. Notably, because the lawsuit is a civil action, no allegations of criminal wrongdoing by any parties have been raised.