Nirvana Face Copyright Suit on Use of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ Artwork

UPDATE (22/10): A copyright infringement lawsuit over Nirvana’s use of an illustration by CW Scott-Giles from a 1949 English translation of Dante’s Inferno on merchandise was dismissed. According to court documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Judge Dale Fischer ruled that the United Kingdom was a more appropriate jurisdiction because the plaintiff, Jocelyn Susan Bundy – granddaughter of Scott-Giles – is a British citizen, and because illustration is covered by UK copyright. . The dismissal, however, was conditional on the defendants agreeing to a change of jurisdiction if Bundy brought another legal action in the UK.

Nirvana’s attorneys, along with the other defendants – Live Nation Merchandise, Merch Traffic and Silva Artist Management – did not immediately return. rolling stonerequest for comment.

“We are disappointed with the Court’s decision and are currently evaluating all options, including an appeal,” said Inge De Bruyn, Bundy’s attorney.


Nirvana was sued for copyright infringement for allegedly using an illustration by CW Scott-Giles from a 1949 English translation of Dante. Hell to merchandise sold worldwide.

The costume, obtained by rolling stone, was filed by Jocelyn Susan Bundy, Scott-Giles’ granddaughter, who is described in the lawsuit as “the sole surviving parent and sole successor in title to copyright in works created by her late grand-granddaughter.” dad “. Along with Nirvana LLC, the suit names Live Nation Merchandise, Merch Traffic and Silva Artist Management as defendants.

A representative for Nirvana and Silva Artists did not return immediately rolling stonerequest for comment. Representatives for Live Nation and Merch Traffic also did not immediately return requests for comment.

The drawing in question is a diagram of the Upper Hell – the first five circles through which Dante ventures into the Hell with his guide, the Roman poet Virgil. Scott-Giles drew this piece and nine others for Dorothy L. Sayers’ translation of Dante divine comedywhich was first published in the UK in 1949. Last January, according to the suit, Bundy discovered that Nirvana had used an image described as “virtually identical” to Scott-Giles’ artwork on vinyl records , apparel, keychains, mugs, patches, buttons, and other merchandise sold in the United States and around the world.

The suit states that Nirvana-branded merchandise has used this artwork since 1989. Additionally, it accused Nirvana and other parties acting on its behalf of regularly making “misrepresentations of ownership” in the artwork; the suit includes three photos where copyright notices credited to Nirvana are placed below the illustration and are dated 1992, 1996 and 2003.

The lawsuit also claims that Nirvana has alternatively implied that Kurt Cobain created the artwork, or that it is in the public domain in the United States, and therefore usable without obtaining proper permission or paying a license fee. Bundy calls these claims “false”, arguing that the Scott-Giles illustration is still protected by UK copyright law and has not fallen into the public domain there, meaning that nor should it be considered in the public domain in the United States.

The lawsuit goes on to assert that “any alleged good faith belief regarding any alleged public domain status of the Illustration [by Nirvana] …is refuted by Nirvana’s misrepresentations of copyright ownership over the years and around the world. He also states that Nirvana and the other defendants had no reason to believe that the artwork would be in the public domain in the other countries around the world where they sold the allegedly infringing merchandise.

Nirvana and the defendants are also accused of ignoring a cease and desist request and indicating that they would continue to sell these products “for at least one year without consent or compensation.” It was later claimed that the band distributed so-called “Nirvana style guides” to third-party vendors and manufacturers of Nirvana merchandise that “contain digital copies of the artwork also bearing fake copyright notices. author”.

The lawsuit says that even though the defendants are “admittedly aware that CW Scott-Giles is the author of the illustration and that Nirvana does not own any copyright in it, they continue to affix copyright notices. ‘author on counterfeit products identifying Nirvana as the owner’. This claim is accompanied by a photo of a Nirvana shirt emblazoned with the artwork with a copyright notice dated 2020.

Bundy is demanding that the production and distribution of any infringing merchandise be stopped and that defendants provide an account of “profits attributable to their infringing conduct.” The suit seeks damages, including losses suffered from the alleged infringement, in an amount to be proven at trial, and any profits made “as a result of their wrongful conduct”, also in an amount to prove at trial.