Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your Les Paul guitar is illegal

The Holder Justice Department staged a raid on the factories and headquarters of Gibson Guitars in Nashville and Memphis. They confiscated guitars, wood and documents in an effort to implicate the historic luthier in an illegal exotic woods scandal. This is the second time this has happened to Gibson, oddly other guitar makers that use the exact same materials have not been raided. If you are wondering why, consider that Gibson's CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is a Republican donor. Chris Martin, CEO of CF Martin Guitars, a darling of the green crowd, is an Obama supporter. Martin, while also implicated in using protected exotic woods has not been investigated - or raided.

In a statement Juszkiewicz suggested the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to snare the company.

The Justice Department refused to speak to - anyone.

While the notion that the Justice Department is being used to exact political revenge is nothing new, especially for this regime, the idea that simply owning a guitar made with these woods puts the musician and collector in jeopardy is distressing.

When a musician crosses an international border with an instrument made of that restricted wood, he will be required to have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument or the origin of the materials. It could confiscated by a zealous customs agent - these guitars can be worth $2000 to $200,000 - as well as face fines and even prosecution.

As an owner of high end guitars that were bought new from the manufacturer I have never been given any document declaring the source of the materials used in it's creation. I never received anything from GM or Chrysler in this regard either. As for the age of the guitar it usually buried cryptically in the serial number and takes significant digging to determine the exact manufacture date if it is possible at all. This places a high burden on the owner of an instrument that doesn't apply to other manufactured goods.

The implications are disturbing to say the least - are rock stars exempt? When will they rise up in opposition? I guess it depends whether it's Toby Keith and Ted Nuggent who gets nailed or Tom Petty and Bon Jovi.

~ from the article linked above: ~ 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.

This is bad, very bad...