Copyright Infringement Suit Involving Nirvana and Dante’s ‘Inferno’ Illustration Heads to the UK

A copyright lawsuit against grunge royalty Nirvana has been kicked over to the United Kingdom after a Ninth Circuit panel upheld a Los Angeles federal judge’s decision to dismiss the case. The case was tossed out in LA because the plaintiff is a British citizen and infringement should be based on UK legal doctrine as opposed to laws in California, according to a report by Courthouse News.

The case was brought by Jocelyn Bundy, and centers on an illustration her grandfather, C.S. Scott-Giles, who drew “Upper Hell” for an English translation of the first volume of Dante’s Inferno. Nirvana LLC, which handles licensing and sales of Nirvana-branded swag, and Live Nation Merchandise, both subsidiaries the Live Nation Entertainment, were selling goods, hoodies, T-shirts and mugs emblazoned with Scott-Giles’s drawing of Perdition.

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According to Bundy, not only are Nirvana and Live Nation using her grandfather’s work without permission but they are also claiming ownership of the work and adding copyright notices to the image.

Nirvana and Live Nation’s legal representative told Courthouse News that in the United States the image has been in the public domain since at least 1949. “Resolving the claims will require determinations of complex English and German copyright law issues based on decades-old documents and witnesses in England,” the attorneys added.

The case was originally dismissed because Nirvana and Live Nation said “they would be amenable to service in the U.K and would agree to personal jurisdiction in the U.K. for purposes of the litigation.” The companies also agreed to voluntarily hand over documents should the case go before a UK judge. 

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