Friday, May 18, 2012

Slapping the musicians

Here's another tale of unintended consequences that could alter the face of the music industry.
Why seize guitars? Because many of those instruments are made from exotic woods that were outlawed by a 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act, an amendment Alexander himself wrote.

In 2008, [Senator Lamar] Alexander and fellow Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Wash., moved to protect the American forest products industry by adding wood to the century-old Lacey Act – which was passed to protect endangered birds, whose feathers were prized for ladies’ hats.

American timber companies were being unfairly undercut by foreign sources of wood, many of which were illegally logged. Environmental groups also supported the amendment for curbing illegal logging in rainforests by imposing criminal penalties for trading in endangered species of wood.

It was that same amendment that led federal agents to raid the factories of Gibson Guitars in 2009 and again in 2011 – raids in which substantial quantities of musical instrument-grade wood were seized. It also ignited a firestorm of fear among musicians that the feds could come gunning for their instruments, unless they had extensive documentation on when the guitar was made and where the wood was from.

After pointed questions from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and other lawmakers, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Fish and Wildlife Service sent a letter assuring musicians that they would not be targeted for “unknowingly” possessing instruments that were manufactured from illegal wood.
[emphasis added]
(from Fox News)

A letter. How nice.

If you are a musician, would you trust them? Senator Alexander says he wants to "fix" the amended Lacey Act to ensure that musicians or instrument makers are not affected, but that seems to be too little, too late, and not nearly reassuring enough after Gibson has already been RAIDED BY THE GOVERNMENT!


That's mind-boggling.

If you are a serious musician, then you probably already know about this issue. If you are any kind of musician at all and haven't heard about the amended Lacey Act, then you should learn what you can. It might actually affect you in the long run.

For what it's worth, the instruments I have are cheap enough that I'm confident they don't contain any of the banned wood.

Confident. But not 100 percent sure.

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