Artist Accused of Ripping Off Jewelry Design

     MANHATTAN (CN) — A Canadian artist claims in a federal lawsuit that prominent English artist Damien Hirst copied the design of her prescription pill-inspired charm bracelets.
     Colleen Wolstenholme, who filed the June 10 copyright infringement complaint against Hirst and his SoHo retail shop Other Criteria, says she has produced silver jewelry inspired by prescription sedatives and antidepressants since the mid-1990s.
     Wolstenholme’s appropriation of prescription drugs includes piece like the “Valley of the Dolls Bracelet,” made up of Valium, Percocet, Xanax, Adderall, Demerol, Prozac, Oxycodone, and Lithium, as well as a rosary that used birth control pills as Hail Mary beads, Viagra as Our Father beads and Ativan anti-anxiety pills to compose the cross.
     The infringement suit alleges that as early as 2004, Hirst and Other Criteria began selling a silver charm bracelet, which Wolstenholme claims is “identical and/or substantially” similar to her pill charms and pill charm bracelet.
     According to the complaint, as of May 16, 2016, Wolstenholme’s application for U.S. copyrights to the “Charmed” series of jewelry is currently pending and provides her with standing to sue for infringement.
     The Charmed jewelry is copyrighted in Wolstenholme’s native Canada, but her January 2016 application for U.S. copyright had been previously been denied for insufficient authorship to support a copyright claim.
     According a 1997 L.A. Times article, Wolstenholme sold her pill-art jewelry for $20 to $75 a piece at the time.
     The Other Criteria website currently has at least 11 jewelry items with replicated prescription pills, including a roughly $60,000 rosary and a yellow gold pill bracelet featuring a miniature version of Hirst’s iconic diamond-laden skull, going for about $35,000.
     Hirst’s earlier prescription drug-inspired artwork includes a 1989 series of medicine cabinet sculptures, each piece named after a different song from the first-wave British punk rock band the Sex Pistols’ 1977 debut album “Never Mind the Bollocks.”
     His pharmacy sculptures grew into a room-sized installation in 1992 and then into a failed restaurant in 1998.
     Since Wolstenholme has pressed gold and silver jewelry directly cast from prescription pills, she has been threatened with litigation and cease-and-desist demands from multinational pharmaceutical companies, according to a Border Crossings magazine story.
     Her lawsuit against Hirst charges two counts of copyright infringement — one count under American law and another under Canadian — and one count of unfair competition.
     Wolstenholme seeks punitive damages, a permanent injunction preventing Hirst from copying her charm bracelets, and the imposition of a constructive trust for the benefit of Wolstenholme on all revenue generated by sales of the copied work.
     The copyright complaint over prescription pill-inspired artwork comes at a time when the Center for Disease Control is reporting the all-time highest amount of drug overdose deaths in American history.
     Representatives of Hirst and Other Criteria have not responded to requests for comment made Monday.
     Wolstenholme is represented by John Krieger from Dickinson Wright PLLC in Las Vegas.

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