Nirvana win court case over copyright dispute on 1989 ‘Vestibule’ T-shirt design

Nirvana Merchandise
(Image credit: Various)

A court case accusing Nirvana of ripping off a copyrighted illustration of Dante’s Inferno by British artist C.W Scott-Giles has been dismissed by a Californian federal judge.

The artist’s grand-daughter, Jocelyn Susan Bundy, had sued Nirvana LLC, Live Nation Merchandise LLC and its Merch Traffic LLC unit, along with Silva Artist Management LLC back in April for copyright infringement, claiming that their 1989 ‘Vestibule’ T-shirt was based upon an illustration depicting a map of Upper Hell that Scott-Giles created in 1949 for a translation of Italian writer Dante Aligheri’s 14th-century poem Divine Comedy

Bundy’s complaint stated: "On or about January 20, 2021, Plaintiff discovered that Defendants Nirvana and Live Nation Merchandise are (and have been) licensing, promoting, selling, manufacturing, and distributing vinyl records, t-shirts, sweaters, hoodies, key fobs, mugs, patches, buttons, and other merchandise items depicting an image virtually identical to the Illustration both in the U.S. and abroad.”

But on October 21, US District Judge Dale S. Fischer ruled to dismiss the case, while stating that it may be better suited to a British court room. 

“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,” Judge Fischer declared.

Fischer said that her judgement would only become final if Nirvana agreed to litigate in the UK and if a British court agreed to hear the case.

Inge De Bruyn, Bundy’s legal representative, told Billboard: “We are currently evaluating all options, including refiling the case in UK court.”


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