Nirvana Wins 1989 ‘Hallway’ T-Shirt Design Copyright Lawsuit

Nirvana has beaten a lawsuit claiming that one of its most recognizable t-shirt designs is based on a copyrighted illustration of Dante’s “Inferno”.

On Thursday, October 21, US District Judge Dale S. Fischer dismissed the case against Nirvana and Live Nation’s merchandise unit, which involved the group’s “Hallway” t-shirt.

The design of the shirt features a map of the circles of hell, as depicted by the 14th century writer Dante Alighieri in the Hell part of his epic poem The Divine Comedy. It was first released in 1989, coinciding with the group’s debut album, “Bleach”.

In May, Jocelyn Susan Bundy filed a lawsuit against Nirvana for copyright infringement, alleging that her grandfather Charles-Wilfrid Scott-Giles created the image as part of his 20th century academic work on the heraldry.

Bundy officially continued to distribute the t-shirt and image in question from 1997, despite its initial release eight years earlier. His lawsuit claimed that the “Hallway” image was “virtually identical” to his grandfather’s inspired illustration of “Inferno” titled “Upper Hell.”

Nirvana ‘Vestibule’ T-shirt CREDIT: Amazon

Thursday’s hearing saw Judge Fischer say the case would suit the UK legal system better than a California courtroom. He wrote: ‘Since one of the main disputes in this case concerns the ownership of copyright in illustration, which is governed by UK law, the UK probably has a greater interest, in the whole, in this case. “

Inge De Bruyn – Bundy’s lawyer – said Billboard they are “currently assessing all options, including bringing the case to a UK court.”

In August, Nirvana was sued by Spencer Elden who, as a baby, posed on the cover of the 1991 release “Nevermind”. Elden opened the lawsuit against the surviving members of the group, as well as the estate of Kurt Cobain, among others, alleging that the use of the image was “commercial sexual exploitation of children.”

As of last month (September), Elden’s demands included censoring the image of her genitals on the cover of the 30th anniversary reissue of “Nevermind”, with her attorney asking for the label “to end the exploitation of children and violation of privacy ”.

Elizabeth J. Harless