Saturday, August 27, 2011

More on the idiotic armed raid at Gibson Guitars

UPDATE: What a coincidence! CEO of Gibson Guitar a Republican Donor. And their Democratic-donating competitor, Martin, uses the same wood but wasn’t raided. Well, when you’ve got a President who jokes about tax audits as revenge for a personal slight, it’s hard not to be suspicious, isn’t it?

More on the idiotic act and the wide-ranging powers it gives the feds here:
If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent—not to mention face fines and prosecution.

John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a blues and ragtime guitarist, says "there's a lot of anxiety, and it's well justified." Once upon a time, he would have taken one of his vintage guitars on his travels. Now, "I don't go out of the country with a wooden guitar."

The tangled intersection of international laws is enforced through a thicket of paperwork. Recent revisions to 1900's Lacey Act require that anyone crossing the U.S. border declare every bit of flora or fauna being brought into the country. One is under "strict liability" to fill out the paperwork—and without any mistakes.

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."
Note that there doesn't have to be anything 'illegally obtained' on the instrument: it could simply be that you can't prove to some TSA-level idiot that the instrument is old enough that the Act doesn't affect it.

One more case of good intentions crossbreeding with the Law of Unintended Consequences and producing a monster.


Oleg Volk said...

Good intentions? I don't think their very intentions were good, much less the effect.

Windy Wilson said...

It may be all about political contributions; Rumor has it that the anti-trust action against RKO in whenever the hell it was, was the result of competitors wanting to clip Howard Hughes's wings in that industry, and since THEY had greased the correct palms, THEY called the tune for the Sherman Anti-trust morality play foisted on Hughes.