Nirvana Are Being Sued for Their Improper Use of Upper Hell
The band have been hit with a copyright lawsuit over using an image for decades without proper consent
Published May 04, 2021Despite Nirvana not being a band for decades, they are now being hit with a new copyright infringement lawsuit. According to the suit, Nirvana have allegedly been using a C.W. Scott-Giles illustration from a 1949 English translation of Dante's Inferno on various merch without proper permission to do so.
The lawsuit has been filed by Jocelyn Susan Bundy, the granddaughter of Scott-Giles who states she is the "sole surviving relative and sole successor-in-title to the copyright in the works created by her late grandfather," Rolling Stone reports.
The suit names not only Nirvana LLC as defendants, but also Live Nation Merchandise, Merch Traffic and Silva Artist Management.
The illustration in question is a diagram of Upper Hell, which was drawn by Scott-Giles and first published in the UK back in 1949. According to the lawsuit, Bundy found this past January that Nirvana had been using an image that was "virtually identical" to Scott-Giles' drawing on various merch items sold around the world.
As Rolling Stone lays out, the suit alleges that Nirvana have been using the illustration as far back as 1989 and even states the band and various parties representing them have regularly made "false claims of ownership" over the image of Upper Hell.
The lawsuit also claims that Nirvana improperly implied that late frontman Kurt Cobain actually created the image himself or that it belongs to public domain in the U.S., meaning they do not need to pay a proper licensing fee for using the illustration.
According to the suit, Scott-Giles' illustration is still protected under UK copyright law and has not fallen into the public domain the country, so it should also not be considered in the public domain in the United States either.
The suit claims "any alleged good faith belief regarding any alleged public domain status of the Illustration [by Nirvana] … is refuted by Nirvana's false claims of copyright ownership throughout the years and the world."
According to Bundy, Nirvana and the other defendants named in the case ignored a cease and desist request, allegedly stating they will sell these products "for at least another year without consent or compensation."
The suit adds that, as recently as 2020, the defendants are "admittedly aware that C.W. Scott-Giles is the author of the Illustration and that Nirvana does not own any copyright in it, they continue to affix copyright notices on the Infringing Products identifying Nirvana as the owner."
Bundy is now all use of the image be stopped and that the defendants provide an accounting of "profits attributable to their infringing conduct." The lawsuit is also seeking damages.