Gibson Guitars has been raided for allegedly using woods from endangered sources.
From the Wall Street Journal Guitar Frets: Environmental Enforcement Leaves Musicians in Fear by Eric Felten 8/26/11:
Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. The Feds are keeping mum, but in a statement yesterday Gibson’s chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, defended his company’s manufacturing policies, accusing the Justice Department of bullying the company. “The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier,” he said, suggesting the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to make the company cry uncle.
It’s not enough to know that the body of your old guitar is made of spruce and maple: What’s the bridge made of? If it’s ebony, do you have the paperwork to show when and where that wood was harvested and when and where it was made into a bridge? Is the nut holding the strings at the guitar’s headstock bone, or could it be ivory? “Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever,” Prof. Thomas has written. “Oh, and you’ll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration.”
Consider the recent experience of Pascal Vieillard, whose Atlanta-area company, A-440 Pianos, imported several antique Bösendorfers. Mr. Vieillard asked officials at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species how to fill out the correct paperwork—which simply encouraged them to alert U.S. Customs to give his shipment added scrutiny.
There was never any question that the instruments were old enough to have grandfathered ivory keys. But Mr. Vieillard didn’t have his paperwork straight when two-dozen federal agents came calling.
Facing criminal charges that might have put him in prison for years, Mr. Vieillard pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act, and was handed a $17,500 fine and three years probation.
Is this another ridiculous regulation that will have more of our manufacturing move overseas? It is fascinating how some of the tree huggers who have strongly supported onerous regulations will pitch a fit if they cannot use ebony on their fret boards. This excess regulatory zeal will start an outrage among musicians who will start writing songs about how stupid this is.
First they came for the light bulbs and I was silent. Then they came for my toilets that could accomplish their assigned task in a single flush, and I said nothing. Now they have come for my guitars, and I am really, really pissed.
PS. Read Kimberly Strassel’s update and further depth on this insanity in the Wall Street Journal, 11/25/11 Stringing Up Gibson Guitar. *(may require paid subscription)
PPS. Gibson CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, almost a year after the infamous raid wrote this is the 7/19/12 WSJ, Gibson’s Fight Against Criminalizing Capitalism.
Growing businesses face a number of hurdles in today’s economy. For Gibson Guitar—a company that has created more than 580 American jobs in the last two years—the largest hurdle is the federal government.
In America alone, there are over 4,000 federal criminal offenses. Under the Lacey Act, for instance, citizens and business owners also need to know—and predict how the U.S. federal government will interpret—the laws of nearly 200 other countries on the globe as well.
Many business owners have inadvertently broken obscure and highly technical foreign laws, landing them in prison for things like importing lobster tails in plastic rather than cardboard packaging (the violation of that Honduran law earned one man an eight-year prison sentence). Cases like this make it clear that the justice system has strayed from its constitutional purpose: stopping the real bad guys from bringing harm.