Placebo CD cover a bitter pill to swallow

July 2012


An unemployed chef whose boyish face featured on Placebo’s eponymous 1996 debut album is bringing a self funded action against the band claiming the image was used without his consent or permission. The photograph, of David Fox who was then aged twelve, shows the youth in a large red fleece pulling his own cheeks down. It was taken by Mr Fox’s cousin who was a professional photographer. Fox says that once the album was released and became a chart success, he was bullied at school and questioned by teachers. Eventually his mother had to drive him home from school because of the bullying and Fox said he went from being popular to a situation where “Nobody wanted me on their side or anything like that”. He left school before his GCSEs. Now aged 28 was made redundant recently due to the recession. Riverman Management, the band’s managers, said any action should be directed against the band’s label Virgin, who released the album.

Former model Robert Christoff initially won a lengthy legal case against Nestle, owner of tasters Choice coffee, having been initially paid  $250 back in 1986 for the photo of the model “posed gazing at a cup of coffee, as if he enjoyed the aroma”. There were contract provisions for further payment if the image was used  but these were not made. Despite this the photo was used by Nestle on eight different Taster’s Choice labels in 18 countries from 1997 to 2003. The trial court applied a two-year statute of limitations and instructed the jury to determine under the discovery rule whether Christoff knew or should have known earlier that Nestlé had used his image (this point was appealed to the Californian Supreme Court in 2009). The jury found that Christoff did not know, and should not reasonably have suspected prior to seeing the jar, that his image was being used without his consent and awarded him more than $15 million in damages.

Other child album cover stars include Spencer Elden, the naked baby swimming on Nirvana’s Nevermind is now 20 and studying fine art in California and Keithroy Yearwood, now an 18 year old Hugh School student, who was identified as the ‘afro baby’ on the Nororious B.I.G’s Ready to Die: He was paid $150 for the shoot.
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