Nirvana ‘Vestibule’ T-Shirt Copyright Lawsuit Dismissed, But May Be Refiled
While much of the legal focus in recent months has been on Nevermind cover baby Spencer Elden's lawsuit trying to get his image removed from future pressings of the album, Nirvana have also been involved in another lawsuit, this one claiming the band had infringed upon a copyright illustration of Dante's Inferno for use on a T-shirt. But as of Thursday (Oct. 21), that legal matter has been settled for now, though more legal action could follow.
A California federal judge dismissed the case on Thursday. The suit was initially filed by Jocelyn Susan Bundy, who stated that the drawing was created by her grandfather in 1949 and remains under British copyright. She filed her lawsuit in April, revealing she had only recently learned of the "Vestibule" T-shirt with a design that featured a drawing of the "seven circles of hell." The shirt in question was initially released in 1989.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer dismissed the lawsuit, but stated that the case would be a better fit for the British legal system than to be addressed in Los Angeles.
“Given that one of the core disputes in this case concerns ownership of the copyright in the Illustration, which is governed by U.K. law, the U.K. likely has a stronger interest, on balance, in this case,” the judge wrote, according to Billboard.
In her lawsuit, Bundy claimed that the "Vestibule" T-shirt imagery was "virtually identical" to her grandfather's "Upper Hell" illustration that appeared in the 1949 book. In addition to Nirvana LLC, the case also named Live Nation Merchandise LLC as a defendant.
Lawyers for Nirvana and Live Nation argued that the case was "forum non conveniens," a legal term stating that the case was filed in an inappropriate court. The judge agreed, but added that her dismissal would only become final if the band agreed to litigate the case in the U.K. with a British court hearing the case.
Bundy's lawyer, Inge De Bruyn, told Billboard on Friday (Oct. 22) that they are currently evaluating all options, including refiling the case in a U.K. court.