The band Nirvana was sued by the heiress of a British artist who drew a map of hell for a translation of Hell from Dante Aligheri, after claiming that the iconic rock band took the image and used it on their merchandise.
Hell is the first part of the Divine Comedy, masterpiece of the epic Italian writer of the 14th century.
According to Rolling Stone, the lawsuit was filed by Jocelyn Susan Bundy, the granddaughter of CW Scott-Giles, who is described in the lawsuit as the “only surviving relative and sole successor in title to the copyright of works created by his deceased grandfather.”
The drawing in question is a diagram of the Upper Hell: the first five circles Dante ventures through Hell with his guide, the Roman poet Virgilio.
Scott-Giles drew this piece and nine others for the translation of Dorothy L. Sayers from Divine Comedy by Dante, which was first published in the UK in 1949.
Last January, according to the lawsuit, Bundy discovered that Nirvana had been using an image, described as “practically identical” to the Scott-Giles illustration, on vinyl records, clothing, key chains, mugs, patches, buttons and other products sold. in the United States and around the world.
The lawsuit states that Nirvana-branded merchandise has been using this illustration since 1989.
Furthermore, he accused Nirvana and other parties acting on his behalf of regularly doing “false claims of ownership“about the illustration.
The lawsuit includes three photos in which copyright notices credited to Nirvana are placed below the illustration and are dated 1992, 1996 and 2003.
The brief also states that Nirvana claimed that Kurt Cobain created the illustration, or that is in the public domain in the United States. And therefore it can be used without obtaining proper authorization or paying a license fee.
Bundy calls these accusations “false.” And argues that Scott-Giles’ illustration is still protected under UK copyright law and it has not fallen into the public domain there.
Which means that it should not be considered in the public domain in the United States either.
The plaintiff demands that the production and distribution of any infringing merchandise be stopped. And that the defendants provide an accounting of the “earnings attributable to their infringing conduct.”
Likewise, the lawsuit seeks damages. It also includes the losses suffered by the alleged violation, for an amount that will be proven at trial. As well as all the gains obtained “as a result of his infringing conduct”.
It is not the only legal battle
This isn’t the only copyright infringement battle Nirvana is currently involved in.
In January 2019, the band’s legal representatives sued the designer’s firm Marc Jacobs for infringing the copyright law. They used their symbolism in the clothing collection Redux Grunge.
It features several elements very similar to the black and yellow smiley face iconography that Kurt Cobain’s band created.
As collected Forbes, the representatives of the group, who separated after the death of Cobain, affirm that “the unauthorized use of Marc Jacobs of the protected image is intentional”.
The lawsuit claims that Jacobs’ firm’s use of Nirvana iconography is to make the association more authentic. grunge with the collection.
The original logo was designed by the leader of the group, Kurt Cobain, in 1991 and was registered in 1993.
The design consists of a smiling face with a tongue and eyes replaced by the letter X.
The version of Marc Jacobs features an M and a J instead of X for his eyes. And says “HEAVEN” instead of “NIRVANA“, in a font similar to that of the band.