In the suit, Elden alleges that his "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."
Defendants, the suit adds, "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."
Deadline reported that Elden's parents never signed a release authorizing the use of their 4-month-old son's photos, which were taken at a Pasadena aquatic center in 1990. Elden's attorneys also allege that their client received no compensation.
"To ensure the album cover would trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer, (photographer Kirk) Weddle activated Spencer's 'gag reflex' before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer's exposed genitals," the suit adds, and points out that Nirvana's late frontman Kurt Cobain chose the photo, which suggests a "sex worker grabbing for a dollar bill."
The suit notes that the named 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."
According to Loudwire, Cobain, who died in 1994, reportedly agreed to "partially cover up the nudity on the photograph with intentions to place a sticker over the genitals that read, 'If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.'"
The sticker, according to the suit, was never applied.
"The permanent harm [Elden] has proximately suffered includes but is not limited to extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and educational progress, lifelong loss of income earning capacity, loss of past and future wages, past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other losses to be described and proven at trial of this matter," a portion of the suit adds of Elden's unwanted exposure.
Elden is seeking damages of either $150,000 from each of the 17 defendants named in the suit, or unspecified damages to be determined at a trial.
Representatives for Universal Music Group and the attorney that represents Nirvana, LLC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Deadline's report added.