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Letters to the Editor: The ‘Nevermind’ album cover lawsuit is ridiculous, lawyers say

Nirvana in 1991
Members of the band Nirvana pose for a photograph in 1991.
(Paul Bergen / Redferns)

To the editor: While I generally enjoy Robin Abcarian’s columns, her giving credence to the claim that the photo of Spencer Elden as a naked infant on the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album “Nevermind” is child pornography ignores thousands of years of artists using a naked baby to make a political or social point.

Under Elden’s analysis, the baby John the Baptist showing baby Jesus a fragile bird in Raphael’s “Madonna with Goldfinch” has obviously been painted standing at an odd angle for the sole purpose of displaying his genitals. The full frontal boy in Boucher’s “Cupid a Captive” is in the middle of an orgy, and the child in Delacroix’s “Medea” is apparently into sadomasochism.

I am not an art historian, but I am an attorney, and abuses like this lawsuit degrade the public’s already shaky belief in the rationality and fairness of our legal system.

Stephanie Scher, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Though I was a member of the California State Bar, I have no expertise in the area of law that relates to Elden’s lawsuit. However, I think that Abcarian has missed the boat on several points.

First, Elden’s parents had the right to sell his image given his age. Turns out they made a bad deal. If they think that they were misled as to how the photograph would be used, they should have sued years ago.

If Elden thinks that his parents should have sued, his cause of action should be against them. How does the statute of limitations not bar this suit?

Second, Elden’s lawyer’s evaluation of the so-called Dost test for child pornography can charitably be described as far-fetched. The water is suggestive of sexual activity? Is it intended to elicit a sexual response in the viewer? Hardly.

I am sorry that Elden now feels violated, but I think that he is too late to the fair. Still, the classy thing for Nirvana to do would be to blur out the offending part going forward (and, to be even classier, cut Elden in on a share of the proceeds).

Andrew E. Rubin, Los Angeles


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