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Child pornography case reopened against Nirvana for 'Nevermind' cover

Spencer Elden will be able to move forward with his lawsuit against the band and the record label Universal Music.

El fundador de Nirvana Kurt Cobain toca la guitarra y canta durante un concierto en Italia.

Kurt Cobain / Cordon Press

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A federal appeals court this Thursday reopened the trial against Nirvana for the cover of their album “Nevermind.” The court did not determine, however, whether the band and Universal Music, among others, were guilty of child pornography charges.

The iconic cover shows a naked baby in a pool, in front of a dollar bill hooked on a fish hook. Thirty years after the release of the group's second album, the baby in the image, Spencer Elden, sued Nirvana in 2021 for child pornography.

Although the court initially determined that the statute of limitations had expired, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reopened the case, arguing that "every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the victim’s abuse." Therefore, the dates of the “Nevermind” rereleases matter as much as the date of the initial release (1991). At least one did occur within 10 years of the statute of limitations, including one in 2021.

"Spencer is very pleased with the decision and looks forward to having his day in court," said Elden's attorney, Robert Lewis, in statements reported by Courthouse News Service. "The decision is important for all child pornography victims because it acknowledges that each republication of a sexualized image of a child injures that person’s and emotional well-being, much like a defamatory statement, even though Nirvana continues to republish the sexualized image of Spencer."

"This procedural setback does not change our view," said Bert Deixler, the band's lawyer, in statements to Reuters. "We will defend this meritless case with vigor and expect to prevail."

Once the case is reopened, the district court must decide whether Nirvana is guilty and whether Elden receives the $150,000 minimum he has demanded from each defendant.