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Nirvana sued over circles of hell image

By | Published on Wednesday 5 May 2021


Nirvana have been sued by the granddaughter of a British man who created the circles of hell image that has been used on the band’s merchandise since the 1990s. She claims that that use was unlicensed and therefore infringed her grandfather’s copyright.

The image was seemingly created in the late 1940s by CW Scott-Giles, depicting Upper Hell as described in Dante Alighieri’s ‘The Divine Comedy’. Scott-Giles’ image then appeared in a Dorothy L Sayers’ translation of the fourteenth century poem.

Jocelyn Susan Bundy says that she is the sole surviving relative of Scott-Giles, who died in 1982, and therefore the successor-in-title to his copyright. That may or may not be true, but why is she only suing now over Nirvana’s use of the image since the 1990s?

Well, her lawsuit claims, she only became aware of that use in January this year, subsequently discovering all the merchandise on which it has appeared over the years.

Her legal filing also claims that Nirvana have in the past attributed the copyright in the image to the band themselves, variously claiming that Kurt Cobain created it and/or that the illustration is in the public domain, ie no longer protected by copyright.

“Nirvana and some of the other defendants have maintained this position in their responses to plaintiff’s continuing requests to cease their wrongful conduct in the US and abroad”, the lawsuit adds.

As well as the band’s own company, Live Nation Merchandise LLC and Silva Artist Management LLC are also named as defendents on the lawsuit.