Is Gibson Guitars Unfairly Bullied or Have They Really Screwed Up… Again?

Last week, for the second time in two years, federal agents raided the facilities of Gibson Guitars, probably the most well-known guitar maker around the world. Although the two raids are the result of different cases, the accusations then and now are similar – violations of the Lacey Act, a law requiring that all wood products and plants imported into the U.S. come from legal sources.

On November 2009, federal agents seized guitars and fingerboard blanks that were suspected to be produced from illegally harvested Madagascan rosewood and ebony. Last week the agents seized several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. From a Reuters report the latest raid is related to a shipment of sawn ebony logs from India that was imported by Gibson illegally, violating the Lacey Act.

Gibson’s CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz was furious this time. According to Gibson’s website he believes the Justice Department is bullying Gibson without filing charges. He also promised in his statement that “we will fight aggressively to prove our innocence.” And the gloves, at least on Gibson’s side, are definitely off. Don’t believe me? Just look at the press release Gibson filed after the raid.

The headline says “Gov’t says wood is illegal if U.S. workers produce it”. The first sentence clarifies it a bit: “The Federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India.”

The combative tone continues all along the release with a clear dichotomy between Gibson, a company that “has a long history of supporting sustainable and responsible sources of wood” and the government who sends armed federal agents to execute search warrants, without any warning or communication of any kind, “causing lost productivity and sales.” It’s very clear from Gibson’s perspective who the good guys and the bad guys are in this story.

It’s no wonder that right-wing online media warmly adopted Gibson’s side of the story. RedState, for example, suggested that “the Department of Justice is under fire for taking the bold step of sending armed agents into the factories of Gibson Guitar”, adding a photo showing a guitar player with a note on the guitar saying “the machine banned by white house.”

Another blogger, Andrew Lawton, even went further and claimed this raid is actually a result of political persecution because Gibson’s CEO is a donor to a couple of Republican politicians. To prove his point, Lawton shows how C.F. Martin, one of Gibson’s competitors, is using the exact same wood but is not raided because its CEO is a long-time democratic supporter. I can only assume Lawton has never attended one of C.F. Martin’s Wood Summits or talked to their vendors, but anyway it’s a nice theory.

These sorts of reactions were expected, but what is less expected is the silence coming from environmental organizations that are very passionate about these issues, such as Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Greenpeace, or Rainforest Alliance, which has been working with Gibson since 1996 and whose SmartWood program has issued FSC Chain-of-Custody certificates to three Gibson manufacturing facilities. How come they have nothing to say?

One of the main pierces of evidence Gibson brings to prove its case is the fact that although 21 months passed since the first raid in 2009, criminal charges have not been filed. At the same time, they add, “the Government still holds Gibson’s property”. Both facts are truth and indeed it is not clear why no charges have been filed so far. Nevertheless, this is not the whole story. According to Sound & Fair, Gibson filed a motion to overturn the US Fish and Wildlife Service charges, but the agency successfully overturned the motion.

This is not the only detail Gibson fails to mention regarding the 2009 raid. Gibson claims on its press release that it “has obtained sworn statements and documents from the Madagascar government and these materials, which have been filed in federal court, show that the wood seized in 2009 was legally exported under Madagascar law and that no law has been violated.” Now, we’ll leave the compliance with the law to the court to decide on, but it is clear that Gibson does not believe there was any wrongdoing on their side in this case.

Yet, on July 2010 Rainforest Alliance announced that Gibson is working with them on a new wood sourcing plan following the 2009 raid. The new plan had six key elements and the first one was: “Gibson is eliminating risk in its supply chain by identifying potentially illegal or unsustainable sources, banning future purchases of ebony or rosewood from Madagascar, and requiring all future purchases are from documented legal sources”. So apparently Gibson understood that there was something wrong with the purchase of these sorts of wood from Madagascar and that even if it complies with the law (which is yet to be seen), this sort of action does not meet the sustainability standards they claim to employ.

Another important point made by Rainforest Alliance was that “securing FSC-certified supply is critical for Gibson, but also must be accompanied by a clear commitment to eliminating any volume, no matter how small, of illegal wood that may contaminate its supply chain.” This statement shows that FSC-certification is not the end of the journey, but only part of it. So even though Gibson claims now that “the wood the Government seized on August 24 is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier and is FSC Controlled”, it still does not mean it is kosher.

Another consequence of the 2009 raid was that Gibson’s CEO has taken a leave of absence as a board member of the Rainforest Alliance. It’s not clear what the consequences of the latest raid will be, but one thing is sure – even if Gibson will prove its innocence at the court of law, it has now a much larger burden of proof to show it is really committed to sustainability. If Gibson wants to save and strengthen whatever is left of its green credibility, it better start being more transparent and ready to address criticism and a bit less occupied with putting on the blame on the big bad government.

Image credit: jacksonpe, Flickr Creative Commons

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is also an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.

Raz Godelnik

Raz Godelnik is an Assistant Professor and the Co-Director of the MS in Strategic Design & Management program at Parsons School of Design in New York. Currently, his research projects focus on the impact of the sharing economy on traditional business, the sharing economy and cities’ resilience, the future of design thinking, and the integration of sustainability into Millennials’ lifestyles. Raz is the co-founder of two green startups – Hemper Jeans and Eco-Libris and holds an MBA from Tel Aviv University.

47 responses

  1. Raz Godelnik, this article is such a big 0… not much more I can say. A hit peice to prop up this Democratic-in name only facist state.
    Gibson has complied 100%, there is no need for armed thugs. has everyone lost their friggin mind !!!

    1. It astonishes me that people are so sure of right and wrong in this issue. I don’t actually know where the right and wrong are here. Is your conviction based on an ideological position or do you have factual evidence to support your position? I have read probably 15 different reports on this issue and discussed it briefly with a senior manager of the affected companies. Clearly there are differences of opinion. I’ll wait until the situation is resolved to decide if there is wrong doing and by who.

  2. Here is the problem. If you look at how the government treats Boeing after you read what I post you will see this isn’t a far stretch to think they are doing the same to Gibson. I also play a guitar so this hits close to home as they may come after personal guitars soon enough……

    Gibson is the only guitar company targeted by the Obama DOJ under the
    Lacey Act.
    Tennessee is a right-to-work state.

    Fender, Taylor, Rickenbacker, Danelectro, Carvin, MusicMan, and ESP
    are in California;
    Spector is in New York;
    Martin is in Pennsylvania;
    Guild, Ovation, and Hamer are in Connecticut;
    Alvarez is in Missouri;
    B.C. Rich is in Kentucky;
    Heritage is in Michigan;
    Washburn is in Illinois.

    All are forced-union states.

    Peavey is another guitar and electronics company, located in the
    right-to-work state of Mississippi.

    Since 2009, Peavey has been the target of multiple lawsuits filed by
    a competitor, MUSIC Group, which alleges that Peavy products fail to
    meet federal safety and emissions standards.

    1. They have explained it. They have the paperwork on both sides of the ship. And it’s not exotic. It’s Indian rosewood which is the default, stock, meat and potatoes fret board wood used on almost every guitar that doesn’t have a one piece maple neck. Do some research first. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.

      1. Rosewood is indeed on lots of guitars. It is also exotic and rare. Do some research. There are several species of rosewood. All are either endangered or closely monitored due to their small numbers compared to the demand.

    2. Why don’t we trust the buyers of guitars to sort the issues out for them selves? Explain the issues to consumers. Let consumers decide what is right. Much better then having government agents who are acting because of politics.

      This is just another politically motivated drug war

      1. In regards to the above comments by Steve: “Why don’t we trust the buyers of guitars to sort the issues out for them selves? Explain the issues to consumers. Let consumers decide what is right. Much better then having government agents who are acting because of politics.”

        This brief and concise comment sums it up. While everyone else argues over this and that, this comment is all a free minded people ought to consider. Anything else is Totalitarian poppycock!

        Bottom line: If any of you think that this extremely aggressive action by the Federal government is reasonable I question the ability for you to think critically.

        1. Nick, think about your own comment: “Illegal wood”. Call your local government agency, they can help. Here’s the A-Z for the Federal Government:
          And here’s another for all the State governments: Remember this is a listing of each State’s agencies. Once you choose a State, just look at ’em all!

          If this doesn’t illustrate a specific point Nick, you are not thinking it all the way through. Take a moment now…think real hard.

          How much MORE government do you think Society can take? Are you seriously siding with government on this one?

    3. You don’t sound paranoid enough!!… This is blatant and brash bullying- even by US Gov’s normal standards of blinkered autocratic arrogance.  You seem to have missed the point!!
      ( Incidentally, Gibson have been more conscientious  about the legality and environmental impact of their operations than the US Government itself since the last raid in 2009.!!)
      As it has been proven that there has been no breach of US Law or any International Environmental protocols-(These products have been cleared through customs in both India and the US) It would appear that the US Gov. are claiming to be enforcing Indian Law. THE QUESTION IS;  At whose bequest and by what Authority??  In all the articles I have read on this, there is not even one assertion that the Indian Authorities have made any claims or complaint about this situation. THIS is where the issue becomes paranoid.. as even the most addled detective can ascertain that given the lack of legal motive, and the history of the US Gov’s. attitude to doing as it pleases, there are few solutions that don’t involve political or monetary motivation. (Or, as is more likely- both).

      This was written 6 months after the second raid.. and guess what?.. There has STILL been no charges brought against Gibson! This makes the Gov’s. claims look decidedly unbalanced.

  3. I have to admit, it’s a bit odd that this batch of wood seems to have been singled out NOT for environmental reasons, but for a relatively obscure labor law in India – not the kind of thing that’s easy to keep track of anyway, and not usually the kind of think you’d think would justify an armed raid of the company. It does smell like there is more going on here… do we know what kind of wood it is? whether it should have been harvested at all? or is that irrelevant in this case?

  4. On that piece you cited in Sound & Fair, no charges from the 2009 raid were ever filed (as you said in the previous sentence) so Gibson never filed a motion to overturn turn them. Gibson filed a motion to recover their property which has been held for almost 2 years for no apparent reason.

    And it sounds like Gibson was doing everything in their power to comply with US laws and those of Madagascar but following the 2009 raid might have discovered that their suppliers in that country may have had questionable practices or were in violation of there own laws so Gibson went elsewhere for wood. Now obviously I’m speculating, but so are you. Who knows why they partnered with the Rainforest Alliance.

    And also….. don’t you have anything better to do than nit-pick a guitar company’s press release, point by point, in the midst of a Gestapo-style Fish & Wildlife shakedown?

    “combative tone”

    Gimme a f@<%ing break – you're a goofball, Raz.

  5. Actually the Rainforest Alliance did have something to say about Gibson after last week’s action by the USFWS. While neither the Rainforest Alliance nor other groups can or should comment on the USFWS investigation of Gibson, about which we have very little information, the Rainforest Alliance did reconfirm (see that Gibson has been working long before and after the passage of the Lacey Act to get its wood supply from certified sources, and has continued to make progress against benchmarks it set. The above blog post says that the fact that that work is ongoing means “apparently Gibson understood that there was something wrong” with its current purchasing, but that’s not a fair way to construe it. It simply means that purchasers of wood have to be vigilant and continually work at improving control of their supply chains, which are complex, global and always changing. That’s true for any company that uses wood, no matter how much work they’ve done on scrutinizing their sourcing. The blog post also says that the wood seized from Gibson last week was Forest Stewardship Council certified, but that “still does not mean it is kosher,” i.e., legal. It would be a big mistake to conclude from this that FSC certification allows illegal wood; it certainly does not. We have no confirmed information about what wood was seized or what certifications or verifications it had. But assuming the wood was FSC certified, it’s the very first principle of FSC that certified wood “complies with all applicable laws and international treaties.”

    That said, there is an important distinction between government measures like the Lacey Act and voluntary independent certifications like FSC. The Rainforest Alliance strongly supports the Lacey Act. Lacey and the recent EU actions to drive illegal wood out of the EU have been important factors in reducing illegal logging in recent years. That’s a success story. But the reach of these government measures is always going to be limited, and we need to combine them with voluntary independent standards like FSC that companies implement voluntarily. To date over 347 million acres of forests are FSC certified — an area bigger than California, Texas and Arizona combined. Protecting forests on a global scale requires a number of things, laws and voluntary certification among others, to address what this global issue.

    Richard Z. Donovan, Rainforest Alliance Senior VP & VP Forestry, Rainforest Alliance

    1. Richard – thanks for taking the time to respond. This is definitely a little mysterious. What’s your take on exactly why this keeps happening to Gibson? It seems a bit paranoid to call it a political shake-down. Has Gibson, even in good faith, not been doing their homework? Or What?

    2. I will also thank you Dr. Donovan. This point is another great point: “The above blog post says that the fact that that work is ongoing means “apparently Gibson understood that there was something wrong” with its current purchasing, but that’s not a fair way to construe it. ”

      I wouldn’t even get into the “fairness” of this comment, it is simply presumptuous as well as unreasonably biased. The author of this article obviously wants even MORE government intervention at the cost of the producer which is ultimately at the cost of the customer.

      Your follow up point on the wood that was seized from Gibson as being “kosher” is also a great point, and one I do not think needs embellishment.

      Another point I want to make is an economic reality: No matter what, all these government actions hurt the consumer. (For lack of a better word as I know this word carries with it the contemporary connotation of precious resource exploiter.)
      It is ultimately the consumer who either pays an unreasonable amount to cover all the extra costs Gibson incurs through all this legal hoop jumping. (As well as any other business government meddles with,i.e., all manufacturers. Hence inflation.) Or Gibson simply goes out of business and the consumer (customer) has no other choice in even buying a Gibson guitar.

      Also the above Facebook user mentioned Unions as a possible government agenda. This is also a plausible argument as Toyota Mfg. could be used as an empirical example of government aggression toward a company who refuses to unionize.
      I know those who love government intervention so much may call one a “conspiracy theorist” for even suggesting that government may target specific business. But that is currently the catch phrase of the day the Socialists use to attempt to discredit a logical argument against government intervention. It is always noteworthy to point out that when one cannot deal with a position in a debate they usually resort to personal attacks and attempt to discredit their counterpart in debate.

      Finally in dealing with Nick’s comment below: “…the fact that you seem to think Obama is a communist makes it pretty hard to take you seriously.”

      This is something a little research on Obama as well as many of his cabinet members and other office holders in his administration, information which I am not going to provide for you, which can provide plausibility to the contention of this administration being a communist sort. I’ll leave it to you to also know what Socialism and Communism is to decide. I typically do not embellish comments about specific administrations as I see them all as a problem at this point in the ball game. I just thought this needed pointing out.

  6. Okay maybe Gibson does need to be questioned, investigated, or even fined. But explain to me again the need for automatic weapons and a swat-style raid? Obama? Eric Holder? Anyone? Hope and Change.

    1. Cuz this country’s going down the toilet, fast. Intimidation is the new standard.

      Armed cops can call on anyone for any reason these days.

      Recently was taking a class on interior design, suddenly get an email from them saying they dropped me for “attendance and/or not doing assignments” (no details). Sent them a polite “what? why exactly? please explain” letter (that was all!), and in response those people sent me… TWO COPS.

      Who scared my family members by waving hammering on the door, waving around a blown-up fullpage copy of my driver’s license photograph, and being very crude and threatening. I greeted them, they tried to let themselves in but finally accepted that if they are just here to “talk”, then we shall do this outside, and do it quietly and politely. Queried on what exactly they wanted, they proceeded to tell me to “cease and desist contanctING [wrote once!] the institute, never set foot on the property or attempt to talk to anyone [!]”. Asked for the reason, they said this company sent them over for “conflict prevention, just in case [whaaat??]” (no sign of any conflict, never a rude word, and since when is intimidation a police duty anyway?)… apparently, again quoting, “someone had CONCERNS”. Nobody ever did explain what the heck that was all about.

      Guess federal agents getting in the way of a business doing its business would definitely HAVE CONCERNS, too. Apparently, that’s all it takes these days to send armed people to disrupt somebody’s life. And then infer who-knows-what without actually saying anything or charging anyone with anything, so others can go around talking about the embarrassment, make guesses as to what kind of crime was allegedly committed, etc. etc. Personal experience suggests nothing of the sort is necessary. Armed police loooooove to flex their muscles, and people with connections to them looooove to use those for personal agendas or unrelated disputes or even no reason whatsoever, just cause they don’t like your face and cause they can.

      What’s the world coming to?

  7. This Baz guy is some piece of work. The way he managed to imply that because Gibson stopped using madagascar wood after the federal government accused them of some crime they never even charged them with, somehow implies Gibson were knowingly using illegal wood (which they were not) is ridicules. It would make perfect sense for gibson to source another supplier after the unfounded 2009 allegation’s for obvious reasons …seriously Baz…get a grip!!!

  8. On the Glenn Beck radio program Gibson was told by the Attorney General all the charges would go away if he just closed all his US operations and moved them to Madagascar.
    That would be 1200 US jobs lost. I thought Obumer and the democrats were for the jobs.
    How many other jobs have they driven overseas by this communist leader?
    If we the people do not stand up soon this country is going to be another Russia, Cuba or Mexico

    1. Well, the Glenn Beck show has *Zero* credibility, so I wouldn’t listen to anything that comes along there. Also, the fact that you seem to think Obama is a communist makes it pretty hard to take you seriously. However, I will concede that if this is about labor issues and not actual procurement of rare wood that should not be made into guitars then there is definitely something fishy going on!

        1. What a joke…Posting Glenn Beck and Redstate links, calling big bad Obama a communist! Hahahaa, right. He’s more conservative that Ronald Friggin’ Reagan. I wish he was a socialist, but he’s a corporatist just like every single Republican you love so much. Wall Street is doing quite well under “communist” Obama, you moron. Grow up.

        2. “Most democratic socialists are… Have you ever looked up the definition of socialist?  socialism is communism-lite and both are forms of fascism” 

          That is by far the most ridiculous thing I have ever read on the Internet.  Yes, a link to a post at redstate dot com will help your claim look credible.  Actually it won’t.  The only thing you can do after writing a post like that is claim that your little brother snuck onto the computer when you weren’t looking, because otherwise any time somebody who read that post sees the name “Matt Schnackenberg”  They are going to say to themselves… Why bother? The guy is a nutcase. 

      1. Nick, have you ever heard of tree farming? Rare wood means it is considered scarce.
        If any producer of these scarce woods needs more of a specific wood do you think it does his business any good in the long run to deplete it entirely? If a seller of “rare” woods wants to stay in business, I’d be willing to bet he will do his best to keep producing his product and NOT deplete it entirely. The market pricing mechanism will also thwart the product from being depleted before it is gone as other entrepreneurs who have foresight will realize the necessity of farming more of this scarce and highly sought after wood.
        Many of these woods will remain scarce for some time as they usually grow at slower rates. But that will change as soon as there are plenty of producers of these fine rare woods (which will also no longer be considered scarce) and the price of the commodity will drop.
        I also think the Voluntary Market Order is much better equipped at handling this situation than government. Private enterprise has it in their best interests to keep the wood from disappearing, government has no such mechanism other than compulsion and aggression, leaving the consumer with less choice and the entrepreneur less ability to produce a consumer want or need.

        It’s a shame so many Americans out there seem to think that the only way to “save” something is to consent to government aggression and enforced monopoly of that “protection” as opposed to the Voluntary (free) Market System.
        The Market Order is not an evil. It is a Societal innovation which has laid the groundwork for all of Humanity through invention, enterprise, diligence, effort, risk and imagination. The State requires this mechanism in order to exist, strangely, many people in the western countries seem to think it is now the State which provides products and solutions for the wants as well as needs of Society. Socialism is failing the west, and yet America is leading the drive for more of it. Envy and resentment are the emotional elements of this move in a people who think profit means exploitation and the only wealth which ought BE is wealth generated through direct labor. Any other form of wealth is too much and NOT “earned” and ought be expropriated for redistribution.

        Buying wood is not an unlawful act in a free world where wood is grown in the Earth’s soil through photosynthesis. What is legal and what is Lawful are two completely different issues.

        1. Cave Man, unfortunately, without government action rare species are indeed hunted out of existance all the time. Just look at Tiger, Rhinos, etc… hunted by superstitious people who I can assure you have no interest in the preservation of those species. The same thing seems to be happening on a larger scale with fisheries of many kinds. I’m not sure why some governmental protection of certain species and ecosystems is controversial.

          At any rate, the issue here is that Gibson may have done sloppy work on their wood procurement. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I don’t see why it’s the least bit unreasonable for the government to look into it.

    1. Thanks for the response Nick. Your points are taken and without going on a mile long discussion about those points and my objections to them I will only say that your examples: “Tiger, Rhinos, etc… hunted by superstitious people who I can assure you have no interest in the preservation of those species.” Are of a different problem entirely. I am not talking about poaching. And furthermore these two species are not extinct either. I understand they nearly are but so are millions of species this planet Earth has seen. The Lacey act was actually procured for the reason you mentioned to some degree. Because at the time, from what I know of it, people were buying furs and other artifacts that were products of mass poaching.But yes, I also think that the consumer CAN and WILL take such information and decide on their own. And that their decisions are borne of choice not compulsion and those decisions are value judgements the consumer as well as the producer ought have the choice in. Once you hand over that choice to government, no matter how altruistic the intention, you end up with the State expanding far beyond its own abilities to “protect” and you lose the safeguard of society from subjugation. The larger the State the smaller the individual.

      But I am discussing trees and am illustrating the ability for these producers to farm those trees. I understand that many of these rare woods are considered so because of the length of time to grow them, this too can be overcome. I simply do not think the government allows this to occur with intervention. These types of laws remain fixed permanently in time regardless of the changes and innovation which would otherwise occur through diligent efforts of the Market System.

      The real problem I see is the government’s ability to use an obscure law in such a way so as to possibly target specific business owners if they do not comply with “other” politically driven demands.

      I will not ever say that real Capitalism from a Classical Liberalism perspective is a perfect system(for more on this term study this: It is the only system that rejects subjugation by the State and is the only method for Society to thrive and overcome the Human condition. Government intervention perverts and complicates the Human effort miserably.

      To think otherwise is to believe, since there is the assumption that Capitalists are Humans bound to faults such as avarice and selfishness and bent upon destruction, that government is employed by deities and gods so far removed from vice and fault that they are the only way for society to succeed and prosper.

      Also this point: “I’m not sure why some governmental protection of certain species and ecosystems is controversial.” I hope to have described why this situation is so controversial.

      Steven Law
      By the way I study Austrian Economics. Mentioned that just so you understand my perspective. The link I provided can offer all you may require should you want to study from this perspective.

  9. Why do we not have time to investigate and carry out justice on those responsible for the financial real estate debacle wnich obviously trashed United States laws, yet we can find the time and resources to trash an upstanding American company using Indian law. Gibson’s crime; failing to contribute to the Democratic Party.
    I didn’t there was such a law!

  10. Orville Gibson is turning in his grave. The founder of Gibson Guitars would be ecstatic with the innovation and progress his company has made since the 1950’s the decade in which Gibson released many innovative guitars such as the Les Paul, Flying V and my personal favorite the Gibson Explorer. But he would be sickened with our government of not just today but over the last 60 years where it has been nothing but deceitfulness and war mongering. From engineering of weapons that cause mas destruction to our invasions of poverty stricken war torn countries in attempts to find them. Yes our silver spoon fed leaders have one upped themselves this time by going after a proudly stated “American” company who proudly states “Made in the USA” (Not a lot of stuff is now days) on their instruments and has no other than one goal, Making unique and high quality instruments out of the finest materials possible. That being said our government is confiscating wood from our beloved “American” Guitar Company that in turn does this, halts production of said goods, Less goods means less profit (as just about any decent guitar branded with the Gibson logo rarely is sold for under $1000 and a lot of Les Paul Models go for any where from $2000 to $3000) which then means less taxes paid to the federal government which decided to take it upon themselves to interpret foreign country law of which they have in my opinion no right to do. They the American Government brought the issue up not the Indian or Madagascan governments where the wood was taken from “supposedly” Illegally. In my opinion the government is screwing themselves over by not letting Gibson make guitars to tax them on later. How they compensate by fining other music companies like the owner of Atlanta, GA based A-440 pianos $17,500 for importing antique Bosendorfers (an Austrian Piano Company founded in the 1800’s) due to the piano keys being made out of ivory. They also can confiscate any instrument based on even the smallest amount of “restricted” wood or if the nut on the headstock is ivory. Kiss it good bye you won’t get it back and after they confiscate it they can fine you $250 (i assume that’s the minimum fine since A-440 was fined $17,500) for not having proper documentation proving where the materials were harvested from and when. Which if your instrument is from the early half of the 20th century good luck it was made before the ridiculous Lacey Act the government is using as their reason to nail Gibson even included wood that could be used for Fret Boards in its areas of protection. From what i have read it was originally a wildlife conservation law mainly used to regulate feathers people used in hat brims in the early 1900’s, But do to our corrupted system its been modified to regulate everything but that since its not really the fashion of today to wear feathered hats. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a feathery hat, How about you? Also did the confiscated wood get returned to it’s countries of origin? No its being held as Evidence or the government made a new weapon that uses Ebony and Rosewood as a component. Possibly a dashing new M-whatever with the soldiers choice of Ebony or Rosewood stock complete with the largest caliber bullet and biggest waste of tax payer money to date with the exception that the wood was stolen from a harmless guitar company. Bottom line this is tyranny at its best and is a sickening thing to have to read about as an avid guitar player and huge fan of Gibson Guitars. In my opinion they are to guitars as Ferrari is to automobiles and it will be a sad day when armed feds are breaking down your door to seize your prized Gibson with no warning or real cause. Then an iconic piece of American History and ingenuity will be just as endangered as all the things the Lacey Act is in place to protect and conserve. I would love to see them try to take Ted Nugent’s Gibson Guitars away with his unique stances on his 2nd amendment rights and his sober lifestyle i am sure he would put up one hell of a fight for his right to play HIS GUITAR! The man wails and is noted as a Gibson Byrdland and Les Paul Player check out a list of Gibson players for verification but both of those models would have Ebony Fretboards or even Rosewood depending on when it was made. So my suggestion to the fortunate silver spoon handed sons (John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival plays Gibson Les Paul Customs, with? You guessed it ebony fretboards) of congress men of old running the country today don’t attack an American icon because that makes you Un-American and to do something about me saying that is even more Un-American as this is my opinion of you overpaid out of touch imbeciles and to do anything about that would violate my first amendment rights. So let me say this as well focus on more important problems like peace (Stop trying to be super cop), economic stability (Get us the hell out of debt), The rest of the worlds opinion about us (From what i hear they don’t really like us all that much), Telling the Truth (No more lies, No more cover ups, No more Scandals just end your greedy ways) and most of all find some common ground(I don’t know about you but im sick of the Democrat vs. Republican power struggle that seems never ending why don’t you the elected congressmen go ask the people their opinions go door to door on foot for all i care take that new found knowledge of the people you represent into consideration then board yourself up in the white house argue and beat the dead horse.) Now to my fellow citizens stop blaming the president for our problems and everything the government does i can tell you i didn’t vote for him i could care less if he gets reelected no one man(or Woman) can fix this countries problem the president will change by law ever 4 to 8 years constitutionally they cant serve more than that FDR only man in history to do so only did so because of WWII and we were worried about Nazi’s then the 22nd amendment. We don’t see change because of congress because they can serve well from about their late mid 20’s to 30’s until they either resign or croak at 80. Blame them not the figure head and if you want to see change look in to groups like anonymous and find out their plan and submit ideas in my opinion that is the route we should take when the government starts attacking more harmless companies and affecting thousands if not millions of American jobs. Now my last thing to rant about this my thought on the topic of the US vs. Gibson is this is an attack against any musician that has taken a political stance in their music that revolutionized and changed generations thinking over the years from the 60’s and 70’s with Bob Dylan and many more to music of this last decade like Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down and many more hard rock from folk to rap hip hop to punk even country music which is usually all American has had song writers say something anti government that causes a stir, look at the Dixie Chicks. But one thing they all usually have in common is Gibson Guitars, Gibson is the preffered brand by more guitarists then i could even try to name from famous to the unknown. Now again to the men in charge First Orville Gibson DO NOT MAKE OUR FOUNDING FATHERS TURN IN THEIR GRAVES BY BECOMING NAZI’S! We proud American citizens have stopped tyranny once and by all means can do it again you have to realize you can only push our buttons for so long before South Carolina secedes again or in this case more likely Tennessee will start it instead of finishing it. Thank you if you read this sorry if it went on to long but i created an account on her just to rant about how stupid our governments becoming.

    1. Good grief, have you ever heard of using paragraphs?

      The paranoia of these comments is starting to get offensive. Did Gibson use wood they shouldn’t have? Or not? That’s the only question here.

      1. Yeah actually do i care to use them on an internet comment board not really. Paranoia maybe but does our government have right to interpret foreign countries law? No they do not they are the United States Government not the Indian. If the wood was obtained illegally then it is up to that country to ban trade with Gibson or to suggest them building a factory to finish the wood in their country employing Indian workers to finish just the Fretboards.

        Bottom Line our Government should intervene in the wood a guitar company obtains for their product. I agree with Al. It is very ridiculous our government found time to handle this particular matter but could not manage to do something about the real estate bankers. Whats your thought on that?

        1. Not really? Dude, no one can read what you wrote. I barely made it through.

          I don’t really care whose law was broken, though it’s clearly up to both countries to properly enforce them. The issue to me is this – did Gibson properly vet their wood sources? Whether of not they were “legal” is only one problem. The real problem is whether or not they should have been harvested. A lot of wood and critical ecosystemic species are harvested that shouldn’t be, even if it is perfectly legal.

          I don’t care about whose labor was used either. That seems like a nit picky detail. The wood is the important thing.

  11. Law enforcement agents have job protocols they must follow regardless of circumstances – includes the lead agents being armed. No different than a cop asking you to stay in the car while he calls in the license number – assuming anything is possible.

    Sadly, no one seems to understand that the Lacy Act includes by reference the laws of sourcing nations. By treaty those nations are asked to do the same regarding US laws. (Otherwise there is no basis for enforcement of an endangered US plant or animal found exported illegally to China.) JL

  12. Many of the commenters in this thread fail to understand the level of proof the government needs in order to bring charges for having illegally-sourced wood.

    According to the Lacey Act, the FWS must demonstrate that a company has knowingly violated the law; something that is extremely hard to prove. Furthermore, DOJ can only pursue criminal charges under the Lacey Act if it can demonstrate a standard of proof that is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    The FWS is severely understaffed and therefore can only afford go after the worst-of-the-worst with respect to environmental crime enforcement. The only way FWS and DOJ will expend their extremely limited resources on such a case is if they have multiple smoking guns; otherwise, it is not worth their effort.

    Those that assume there is weak evidence or that this case is politically motivated demonstrate their limited understanding of our justice system. I recommend that the readers of such comments recognize this and disregard them.

  13. I have been playing guitars both Martin & Gipson for over 60 years, I never asked where the wood came from to make these instuetments,but always olayed for the sound of the guitar, I hope they donr try to take my worm hole violine.

  14. Something just doesn’t seem right about this. There are a LOT of companies making guitars and other musical instruments in the US that use rosewood and ebony. I don’t see how Gibson could be the ONLY musical instument company purchasing wood considered to violate the Lacey Act. It seems to me that IF Gibson is guilty of some aspect or detail of the law, there MUST be others that are sourcing their wood stocks in a similar manner.

    Also, why doesn’t the USFWS bring it’s case from 2009 to a conclusion? It does not seem right that they can have an indeterminate amount of time to hold materials and NOT move forward legally. If this happened to a small manufacturer, they would probably not survive the ordeal even if they were eventually determined to be innocent.

    And, the idea of proving the source of all woods in your posession when crossing a border? Really?

    Sad times for all of us that things have come to this.

  15. It’s a real shame that this case has become so politicised. The Lacey Act was updated in 2008 primarily to address illegal logging that was driving many tropical hardwood species to extinction. Gibson was guilty in this regard in making a very bad business decision to buy Madagascan rosewood when it was obvious it had been ripped illegally from Madagacar’s rapidly shrinking National Parks – it doesn’t exist anywhere else!

    And following the Gibson investigation, Lacey is doing it’s job perfectly as every wood importer is now paying full 100% attention to their supply chain for fear of being raided by the Feds. In the past nobody cared where wood came from, how it was harvested, were the correct fees paid, just as long as the quality was OK.

    As this article says – the Gibson case is a game changer for the music industry and about time too!

  16. My response above was for Dave Shires: “Did Gibson use wood they shouldn’t have? Or not? That’s the only question here.”
    My response: “Who the hell knows! Gibson has yet to be charged with a crime!”

  17. The Indian government has already told them the wood’s legal, that nothing has been done wrong. This is about Obama wanting to micromanage our nation, and Gibsons Juszkiewicz being a Republican backer.
    They’ve never charged them with a crime, but still hold their product, illegally. This is a vile way for a government to be acting. There are many companies in America who use the same wood, but they don’t get harassed like that. Only Gibson. Sickening. I hope all the people who thought they wanted a ‘progressive’ PreZ realize now what they got instead.

  18. As far as being ‘Green’, that’s so much bull corn. Obama and all the lackies who think ‘green’ is going to gain anything are out of touch with reality. They seem to think they can cure the worlds ills by stopping civilization, but life just don’t work that way, boys and girls. By taking the product from a legitimate company, they do nothing but raise the bile of many people, the world over. Not only musicians, but all aspects of the music world.

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