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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gibson Celebrates The Government Raid The Best Way It Knows How

In 2011 government officials from Homeland Security and the US Fish and Wildlife Service raided the Gibson Guitar factory and confiscated approximately $500,000 worth of wood for violating the Lacy Act (watch the video below for more details and read my other posts on the subject). No charges were ever filed and eventually Gibson saw the wood returned.

Now in a brilliant piece of marketing, the company is releasing a "Government Raid" model Les Paul commemorating the event. Each guitar's fretboard is guaranteed to include a piece of the rosewood that was confiscated in the raid. The model is painted in a new drab tan color to capture the colors of the commandos involved in the raid, and retails for only $1,099, which includes a hard case and a certificate signed by Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz. Such a deal!

From the beginning this seemed like it was a case of some overzealous government officials splitting hairs in the wording of a law meant to be applied in another area. It's probably a good thing that it happened to Gibson instead of some small boutique manufacturer though. Gibson had the resources and the friends in high places (including at least 2 US senators) to put pressure on the Feds to think a bit more clearly on the subject, and it apparently worked.

Thanks to reader Rob Carty for the heads up!


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2 comments:

Alan Hardiman said...

While US government representatives are reported in this video to insist that individual musicians are not the focus of enforcement efforts, I must disagree. As an individual musician, I was subjected to similar treatment, not under the Lacey Act, but under the CITES convention (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) when attempting to bring a 1917 William Knabe baby grand piano across the US-Canada border during a household move back in 1999. At issue was the ivory used in manufacturing the piano keys.

Unable to cross the border with that piano, I had either to abandon it at the border, or retrace my steps (after repacking the moving truck) to store it in a suitable facility. I was fortunate to find a DeLorean auto storage warehouse in Buffalo at 5 pm on a Friday afternon, and there the piano sat for several years while I negotiated the labyrinthine application process with the US Fish and Wildlife Service for an export permit.

My eventual success can be chalked up less to my painstaking research showing that the keys in pianos from that era were likely to have been made from African elephant ivory, as opposed to the more protected Indian elephant variety, than to the fact that Canadian authorities had quietly modified their end of the CITES convention during the years the piano sat in storage to allow importation of such pianos into Canada under a personal effects exemption.

As the border agent advised me during my initial attempt at crossing with the piano, if I were to remove the keyboard and throw it off the bridge into the Niagara River, there would have been no problem in exporting the rest of the instrument from the US. And there were times during those years when I wished I had done just that!

One other thing: in addition to the storage fees, there was a $95 "inspection fee" and a $25 application fee.

As Gibson's Henry Juszkiewicz says in the video, how is a musician supposed to know the origin of all the material components in a vintage instrument? It gets that much more difficult when the manufacturer is no longer in business, as is the case with my William Knabe piano.

Rand said...

Hey Uncle Sham,

Get rid of this nanny-government's ridiculously double-standard abusive red-tape waste of tax-payer's money nonsense, and keep your f*king bureaucratic hands off my beloved Gibson Les Paul's!

Don't you hypocritical a**holes have anything better to do?

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