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Gibson raids FYI Ribbon Microphones
Old 5th September 2011
  #1
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autodidactic's Avatar
 

Gibson raids FYI

I've heard a lot of rhetoric both online and offline about certain guitars now being illegal and such. I thought I'd post some of my research into the whole issue of what wood is banned and about the law that is being enforced on Gibson (LACEY ACT).

DISCLAIMER: I am not a US citizen and therefore can't vote. Save the partisan BS for somebody else. Again, I just wanted to do some research to cover my own ass since I have a couple of vintage Gibsons.

HISTORY OF THE LACEY ACT:
1900: Enacted
1981 (Reagan): Protections expanded to a "broader range of plants and plant products"
2008(Obama): Protections expanded yet again
source

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_heal...yActPrimer.pdf - pg19 describes "Due Care" which says "Due care “is applied differently to different categories of persons with varying degrees of knowledge and responsibility." REGULAR CONSUMERS ARE NOT HELD TO THE SAME STANDARD AS MANUFACTURERS. That takes care of the criminal aspect. Now I need to find the official docs to see if they can still confiscate the instruments. I did read that there are exemptions for vintage instruments. If anybody knows about any such exemptions please post on here. Otherwise, I'll post back when I find out about it.
Old 5th September 2011
  #2
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audiogeek's Avatar
 

Wow, they're actually confiscating instruments??? I'd love to get my hands on one of those babies!
Old 5th September 2011
  #3
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That's the thing though. I've heard a lot of hysteria around the issue but not a single account of such an event actually happening. The basic worry is that since the LACEY ACT deals with importing, customs would be looking out for it at borders and airports. If there is no exemption for vintage instruments or if somehow the law applies to your instrument, it could theoretically be taken by customs. That's not something I want to have to deal with coming home from a trip! However, if there are exemptions for regular folks (which is likely considering there are no accounts of this happening) then we should have nothing to worry about.
Old 5th September 2011
  #4
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FireMoon's Avatar
Amazing how many people don't realise if you try to import//export/sell a piano with real ivory keys made after i think 1920, it would be confiscated unless you can prove the ivory was sourced before the year enshrined in international law.
Old 5th September 2011
  #5
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Great post and good on you for doing this research.

Quote:
Originally Posted by audiogeek View Post
Wow, they're actually confiscating instruments???
I Hate to burst the bubble slightly, but I found an article where a few cases were referenced of individuals having "instruments" confiscated at Customs points at airports. The article referenced the Lacey Act and claimed that the individuals had to pay individual fines of $11K and $17K. I don't want to perpetuate myths though. I'll do some more research and find the links to the article.
Old 5th September 2011
  #6
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OK. Still looking for that article, but have turned up a number of interesting sites with valid info about the 4 Phases of Legislation and Enforcement introduced since the 2008 amendments to The Lacey Act. Be aware that The US Government is Quite Serious Folks .. Pleading Ignorance will NOT wash here.

In a Nutshell, The thrust of the 2008 amendments would appear to be aimed at curtailling illegal deforestation and poaching of wild species, by creating a compliance scheme which documents both the sources and destinations of timbers, plants and wildlife being both imported and exported through the USA. Thats Not at all a Bad Thing in this era.

The Act mainly affects Importation/Exportation Businesses and Commercial Enterprises. At the Level of the individual, it requires research and a certain amount of due diligence, to remain in compliance. It represents another layer of beaurocracy/Government/Paperwork that many of us will just have to deal with. There is a scale of Fines for individuals who either trade, are in ownership, or who might even be unwittingly in possession of, any item which might contain illegal or undocumented timbers or materials. That's pretty tough ..

Based on what I've read so far, The Lacey Act (As of Phase IV, April 2010) DEFINITELY affects tour-managers, and musicians travelling with instruments through US borders. We will ALL need to document items on our Tour Manifests and have at least some awareness of the sources of timbers used in drums, guitars, amps and any other kit we are carrying. The Legal onus may well also revert back to Instrument Manufacturers to supply this information to customers and end users. I guess the motto will be .. "Be Aware .. Don't assume"

More to Follow ...
Old 5th September 2011
  #7
That's IT! My solid rosewood Telecaster stays home, under lock and key.

As Chuck once said: "From my cold, dead fingers".

I will only bring cheapo instruments out of country, made with documented legal cheapo basswood and plain maple, the figured stuff will be next on the endangered list.

Better yet, just a plastic Steinberg will be the touring instrument of the future. Sounds like crap, but you can throw it into the overhead compartment, as long as you beat that fat ass with all the carry-on's.

Bottom line: Too many people, not enough trees.

Solution: Birth control and tree planting.

Probable result: all plastic guitars and 11 billion people, in our lifetime.
Old 5th September 2011
  #8
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Jim .. Re : The Tele with the Rosewood fretboard .. I think it's just another form you have to fill out if travelling, and maybe Fender may need to begin issuing info on a website as to the manufacturing practices undertaken in the year the guitar was manufactured .. That would appear to be it.

In the cases I read regarding prosecution, the owners had custom instruments, provided no information about them, and feigned ignorance in the face of questioning .. Being that the instruments might have been made by a sole Luthier, the question does arise as to where and how some Luthiers are sourcing their woods, and whether those materials are on the lists of endangered species ..

In the different articles I've read about the Gibson raid, there may well be evidence that comes to light regarding the possible forgery of supply documentation for timbers that were cheaply and illegally purchased by the company, so who knows, the Government may have been validly enforcing the code of Law since the newer 2008 Amendments. This is all pending investigation and a possible Legal claim by Gibson ..
Old 5th September 2011
  #9
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Both my gibsons are pre 1981 ('65 acoustic and '79 electric) so I should be ok then. Still need to find the official docs. I'll I've found so far are cutesy little pdfs.
Old 5th September 2011
  #10
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shockermatt's Avatar
 

fwiw, the new lacey act amendments, as i understand it, are retroactive. meaning: it doesn't matter when the instrument was made, it's covered under that law. no grandfathering. so, if fender/gibson is unable to provide documentation for the wood used before said documents were required, it's still subject to this law. also, " due care" is undefined, what you or i may consider responsible, the goverment may not.
Old 5th September 2011
  #11
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Yes. True. Pretty Thorny point that one. In the Amended Lacey guidelines there are areas where Rulings are being awaited to clarify Grey Areas. Perhaps Members of the Music Industry need to Petition the US Federal Government ??

With regard to US made Gibsons (before 1981 .. Correct?) and Pre-CBS Fender's .. Perhaps someone can verify that the woods used in the manufacturing of these guitars were all sourced from The US .. If it's impossible to prove, then Musicians may well need to pursue the path of petitioning the Government ..

There is an unusual Legal Onus here on The Instrument Makers themselves .. In that they will have to make at least SOME attempt to both document and share the sources of timbers used in past Instrument Manufacturing .. Otherwise they not only leave themselves open to Government prosecution, but also to countersuits or Class Actions to pay for financial damages incurred by their customers .. Thorny ..
Old 5th September 2011
  #12
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B3Nut's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by shockermatt View Post
fwiw, the new lacey act amendments, as i understand it, are retroactive. meaning: it doesn't matter when the instrument was made, it's covered under that law. no grandfathering.
I wonder how that would hold up in court vis a vis the explicit prohibition in the Constitution against ex post facto laws, you cannot criminalize acts that took place prior to a law being passed. IANAL, but the meaning of the ex post facto clause is fairly unambiguous from where I sit.

TP
Old 5th September 2011
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Bottom line: Too many people, not enough trees.

Solution: Birth control and tree planting.
Old 5th September 2011
  #14
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drBill's Avatar
Smart tour managers for groups traveling internationally have been requesting documentation (serial numbers, model #'s, etc.) from musicians for several years now. Musicians generally flake out or laugh. I'm guessing that won't be happening much longer.
Old 5th September 2011
  #15
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Are you sure that's The ONLY Reason ?? If you have more information, please do share. Some of Gibson's business practices may well be bought into question.

But for most of us, we also need to understand how these Laws affects US.
Old 5th September 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic View Post
Are you sure that's The ONLY Reason ?? If you have more information, please do share. Some of Gibson's business practices may well be bought into question.

But for most of us, we also need to understand how these Laws affects US.
No charges have been filed from this raid or the previous raid by the Federal government in 2009. And there will most likely be no charges filed after the next raid.

Regarding this raid, no U.S. laws have been broken if the confiscated wood were to be finished here by non-union American workers instead of in India. The Federal government has ceded this point but followed through with the raid. The wood itself is not illegal, it's the definition being applied by India and not by the U.S. that our government is enforcing.
Old 6th September 2011
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic View Post
Are you sure that's The ONLY Reason ?? If you have more information, please do share. Some of Gibson's business practices may well be bought into question.

But for most of us, we also need to understand how these Laws affects US.
I'm not sure what business practices the federal government feels it needs to intervene in, but download court document #17 (and #1 and #30 if you have time) and let us know what you think:

Case docket: United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms
Old 6th September 2011
  #18
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by junior View Post
I'm not sure what business practices the federal government feels it needs to intervene in, but download court document #17 (and #1 and #30 if you have time) and let us know what you think:

Case docket: United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms
For the Fed's sake, I hope they have some genius lawyers, cause they are looking like morons and Gibson is going to kick their butts. I suspect something is "going on"......
Old 6th September 2011
  #19
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frans's Avatar
This will stir those who still swallow everything on the news:

DOJ Advises Gibson Guitar to Export Labor to Madagascar | RedState

I wonder if the powers of GS will stomp on this thread.... and why...
Old 6th September 2011
  #20
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This subject just won't go away....ha... no matter how hard they try.....
Old 6th September 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demor View Post
This subject just won't go away....ha... no matter how hard they try.....
Of course it won't. This law depending on how it is enforced could mean you losing your instrument (aka GEAR) to customs upon entry into the USA. The problem is when people start bringing partisan politics into it. I think the mods should moderate this thread at most. The topic after all has very little to do with gibson or politics, it is all about finding out 1:: what the law actually is and 2:: how to comply with it without losing your gear (if that's even a possibility).
Old 6th September 2011
  #22
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jinksdingo's Avatar
This whole saga is a miscarriage of Justice.

Listen to Henry as he defends Gibson and get the injustice that has occurred.

This is an incredible story

Gibson Guitar CEO Fights Back
Old 6th September 2011
  #23
It's not my fingerboard I'm worried about, it's the entire guitar, it's solid rosewood. I also have another made from Guatamalan rosewood with an Indian rosewood through neck and Madagassar ebony fingerboard. It was custom made for me in 1979. It's been all over the world but no more.

The last thing I can provide is documentation for a custom made instrument because there isn't any. Same for the solid rosewood Telecaster, the neck was re-finished and the "made in Japan" sticker was removed. I can't see bringing stacks of documents and argueing with customs agents about wood sources.

That is a arguement you will probably loose. At best you will be delayed and miss your connection.

Every act by government has a reason. So far, the only apparent reason for this action is a non-union company is being targeted.

The message from the authorities is quite clear: Either adopt our increasing regulations and go union or move your manufacturing operations offshore.

Gibson should call their bluff and hold a public press conference on this. Explain to the un-washed masses that an American company is being pressured to move operations and manufacturing offshore to eliminate even more US jobs, just the message America needs to hear.
Old 6th September 2011
  #24
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Gibson wood scandal FYI

The majority of older guitars were advertised as having Indian or Brazilian rosewood or ebony bits from various parts of the world. It was considered a mark of quality to have the right kind of wood from the right place. I'm sure Martin has very little documentation as to how the rosewood in a '60s D28 was cultivated. It wasn't considered at the time.

Weren't those rosewood Teles made in the Hoshino factory? I wonder what king of recordkeeping they did.
Old 6th September 2011
  #25
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autodidactic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
It's not my fingerboard I'm worried about, it's the entire guitar, it's solid rosewood. I also have another made from Guatamalan rosewood with an Indian rosewood through neck and Madagassar ebony fingerboard. It was custom made for me in 1979. It's been all over the world but no more.

The last thing I can provide is documentation for a custom made instrument because there isn't any. Same for the solid rosewood Telecaster, the neck was re-finished and the "made in Japan" sticker was removed. I can't see bringing stacks of documents and argueing with customs agents about wood sources.

That is a arguement you will probably loose. At best you will be delayed and miss your connection.

Every act by government has a reason. So far, the only apparent reason for this action is a non-union company is being targeted.

The message from the authorities is quite clear: Either adopt our increasing regulations and go union or move your manufacturing operations offshore.

Gibson should call their bluff and hold a public press conference on this. Explain to the un-washed masses that an American company is being pressured to move operations and manufacturing offshore to eliminate even more US jobs, just the message America needs to hear.
Can you provide a single instance of an individual's instrument being confiscated due to customs enforcing the Lacey Act? This thread is about what we as individuals need to know about complying with the laws so we don't have to have headaches with customs agents. With all due respect, we need facts not political rallying cries.
Old 6th September 2011
  #26
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by autodidactic View Post
Can you provide a single instance of an individual's instrument being confiscated due to customs enforcing the Lacey Act? This thread is about what we as individuals need to know about complying with the laws so we don't have to have headaches with customs agents. With all due respect, we need facts not political rallying cries.
With all due respect, your thread title should not read "Gibson wood scandal" if your thread is not about the Gibson wood scandal.
Old 6th September 2011
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gweto View Post
With all due respect, your thread title should not read "Gibson wood scandal" if your thread is not about the Gibson wood scandal.
Agreed. Title changed accordingly.

EDIT: didn't realize I only changed the post title. Perhaps the mods would be kind enough to change the actual thread title to something more appropriate like "Lacey Act: How to protect our gear"?
Old 6th September 2011
  #28
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by autodidactic View Post
Can you provide a single instance of an individual's instrument being confiscated due to customs enforcing the Lacey Act?
Although the Lacey act has been around for awhile, I think recent changes and the enforcement of those changes is too new. I think the next few years will show what we are in for.
Old 6th September 2011
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Although the Lacey act has been around for awhile, I think recent changes and the enforcement of those changes is too new. I think the next few years will show what we are in for.
Exactly. Especially considering that the administration is requesting more money from congress to expand enforcement activities. Gibson just may be the first of many:

http://appropriations.house.gov/_fil...sstatement.pdf
(page 9)

But, what do I know? Every time some relevant info gets posted to one of these threads, it disappears...
Old 6th September 2011
  #30
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I don’t claim to know all the facts here….not sure anyone does….but based on what I do know something doesn’t add up.

On November 17, 2009 federal authorities seized six guitars and several pallets of alleged endangered/illegal, ebony woods, purchased by Gibson and stored at the company's factory.[

In June 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil case against Gibson, stating: "Gibson sourced its unfinished ebony wood in the form of blanks (for use in the manufacture of fingerboards for Gibson guitars) from Nagel (in Germany), which obtained it exclusively from Roger Thunam (a supplier in Madagascar). Madagascar prohibits the harvest of ebony wood as well as the exportation of unfinished ebony wood."

In January of 2011, Gibson filed a motion to recover materials seized and to overturn the charges brought by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. That motion was overturned, and according to reports the material is expected to be used by the prosecution in anticipation of indictments.


On August 24, 2011 Gibson’s Nashville and Memphis factories were once again raided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services; however no details have been released regarding the nature or reasons for this raid.


The charges pending against the Gibson Guitar Company constitute felonies, and if found guilty, Gibson faces hefty fines and involved executives could face jail time.


To date, the federal government has yet to produce any evidence proving wrongdoing on Gibson’s behalf, and the Gibson Company maintains its innocence and that it has been in full compliance with the Lacey Act and all related laws.

IMHO, this smells like a political vendetta of some sort. Someone in the Justice Department—for whatever reason—has it out for an executive or executives at Gibson. IF--and that's big "if"-- Gibson were guilty of some infraction regarding the Lacey Act then the feds would have nailed them two years ago. In other words, they’ve had two years to gather evidence, level charges, and prosecute. Thus far all they’ve done is harass Gibson.

The other thing is that if Gibson had been breaking the law there’s no way that a multibillion dollar company is going to continue doing it, knowing good and well they’re under surveillance by the feds. I cannot believe that a group of executives smart enough to run a company like Gibson would be dumb enough to do something so unbelievably brazen and stupid.

The point is it just doesn’t add up. Something in this scenario stinks, IMO.

Chris
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