In Brief

Artist Suing Damien Hirst Over Charm Bracelets Needs to Take a Chill Pill [UPDATED]

Screenshot of Colleen Wolstenholme's lawsuit against Damien Hirst
Screenshot of Colleen Wolstenholme’s lawsuit against Damien Hirst, whose bracelet is on the right (screenshot via PACER)

In a suit that shows people will sue over just about anything, a Canadian artist is accusing Damien Hirst of copyright infringement — because a series of his bracelets features similar pill-shaped charms as hers. She is now seeking damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs as well as permanent injunctions preventing Hirst from further use and sale of her oh-so incredibly original designs.

The Nova Scotia-based Colleen Wolstenholme filed the complaint against Hirst and his publishing company Other Criteria on June 10. In the documents — which Hyperallergic attained through PACER — she specifies that she has since 1996 been creating 3D sculptures “derived from lost-wax castings of pharmaceutical pills” that she uses to adorn bracelets, necklaces, rosaries, cufflinks, and rings, among other accessories. Hirst, she says, has ripped off these designs since 2004 with his own charm bracelets, which feature cast forms of 16 different pills, also available in either silver or gold. What’s more, Wolstenholme claims “upon information and belief,” he was aware of her and her pieces — which she’s branded “Wolstenholme Works” — as early as March 1998.

Wolstenholme is taking up the case in a Manhattan federal court as both artists regularly conduct business in New York, which is also home to Other Criteria’s headquarters. Although she owns several Canadian copyright registrations for her pill charm, a bracelet, and a pendant, the US Copyright Office in January rejected her request to claim copyright over the pill charms, saying they “lacked sufficient authorship to support a copyright claim,” as per the court documents.

Wolstenholme, however, won’t give it up, arguing that her jewelry constitutes copyrightable subject matter as the charms are “fixed in a tangible medium, original, and possess a minimal degree of creativity.” She has another request pending for her charmed-adorned bracelets.

For his part, Hirst has remained quiet, likely because Wolstenholme’s case is just ridiculous. What’s next: attempts to sue Jeff Koons for using balloon dogs? But we understand the bitterness. It must really suck to see Hirst’s works go for anywhere between $15,000 and $35,000 when your own sells for less than a tenth of that.

h/t The Fashion Law

Update, 6/18: In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, a spokesperson for Hirst’s company Science Ltd. denied Wolstenholme’s claims of infringement, writing:

We refute the claim made by Colleen Wolstenholme. Damien Hirst signed his earliest pill work in 1988, long before Wolstenholme created her first jewelry. We will defend any action brought against Damien.

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