News: information around the issues of exotic wood and the recent Gibson raid

I am forwarding some valuable info regarding the Gibson raid that I feel may be helpful to all of us. Please feel free to repost anywhere where people will see it.

For my luthiers: I would like to Request proper documentation from all of you regarding the model that I am stocking from you. This info is crucial, especially for those of you who are overseas.

If I am expecting a guitar from you or returning a guitar please refer to the Lacey special Use codes attached. If you have further questions please contact me.

Now please read up on the Gibson Raid. I know it's alot of info to take in but believe me, this affects us all.

More on Gibson: a press release by Henry, and a copy of the August 18, 2011 search warrant affidavit used in the August 24th raids. Also, a newly published allowance by APHIS for dealing with pre-2008 instruments.

Gibson’s prior Madagascar ebony and rosewood issue of November, 2009 is one thing, but this new problem with Indian ebony is another. It seems that India has regulations banning wood exports of anything over 6mm thickness unless it’s been worked into a “finished” item inside their country. But it’s not possible to have India process fingerboard blanks any further into a slotted, shaped, inlaid and bound “finished” form, and the Indian government is O.K. with that since the fingerboards aren’t raw lumber and actually have been worked on as far as reasonable. But the U.S. government is insisting that not going all the way makes the blanks “unfinished” and thus illegal to export according to Indian law even though Indian authorities are fine with it! Additionally, there’s been some understandable confusion with appropriate tariff code numbers; and also with having the boards drop-shipped from India to a broker and then a storage facility while being invoiced by LMII, especially since Gibson and not LMII are taking ultimate delivery. It’s bureaucratic harassment and abusive enforcement by agencies with almost total power and less than total understanding of their own regs.

LMII has done everything possible to establish conformance with the law and provide all documents, paper trails, chain of custody evidence, etc. But now they’re justifiably worried that big white trucks and heavily armed agents will show up unannounced at their address, a scenario they might not be able to survive. Even though the U.S. instrument industry accounts for but 1% of wood use here, they seem to be getting disproportionately targeted no matter how much such harassment might endanger the industry’s survival or how many jobs could be lost. It’s all expendable compared to such lofty goals as saving the planet from animal and plant exploiters and rapists!

If these charges hold up, then virtually all Indian ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks used in the entire industry are illegal, and everyone’s wood inventories and instruments would be liable to seizure and harsh penalties. In fact, the same would apply to all guitar woods over 6mm thick originating in India. So, I’d imagine that all the big dogs are watching this very closely – as goes Gibson, so goes the whole industry. The U.S. government is quickly making it increasingly difficult for small as well as large businesses to survive rampant over-regulation.

What can we do to revise badly written and unworkable regulations, and stop increasingly abusive enforcement? Let upcoming electoral candidates know there’s a very serious problem that’s quickly endangering a lot of domestic businesses and killing formerly healthy small international sales, as well as negatively impacting all musicians who travel out of the country. If this could become a campaign issue which highlights some of the deeply flawed and over-regulated current federal policies and could gain public support, it’s possible to change things.

Much of the problem has nothing at all to do with material from protected plant and animal species, but more to do with bureaucratic and regulatory demands involving non-listed species and costs that are impossibly complicated and unnecessary. In the case of genuine vintage and antique instruments (and many other non-instrument products) current enforcement practices are really nothing more than permission for federal agencies to vandalize and destroy priceless and irreplaceable objects, harass legitimate businesses, musicians, and collectors, and block many traditional exchanges between cultures.