The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Spencer Elden, the man whose unusual baby portrait was used for one of the most recognizable album covers of all time, Nirvana's "Nevermind," filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that the nude image constituted child pornography.
The album cover depicts Elden underwater in a swimming pool as a then-infant with his genitalia exposed. The image has generally been understood as a statement on capitalism, as it includes the digital imposition of a dollar bill on a fishhook that the baby appears to be enthusiastically swimming toward. Non-sexualized nude photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under law. . . .
"Defendants intentionally commercially marketed Spencer's child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense," reads the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court's central district of California and obtained by Variety. "Defendants used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential element of a record promotion scheme commonly utilized in the music industry to get attention, wherein album covers posed children in a sexually provocative manner to gain notoriety, drive sales, and garner media attention, and critical reviews."