The apolitical world of Internet guitar forums turned decidedly political Friday following a report in The Wall Street Journal about a federal raid on factories owned by Gibson Guitar in Memphis and Nashville. The charge is that the legendary guitar-maker illegally imported wood from India to make fretboards. But the Journal report digs deeper into the federal regulations placed on musicians that want to travel abroad with their instruments. It's apparently a "tangled intersection" of laws and it's causing some of the Internet's biggest guitar forums to go ballistic. This morning, the Journal reported that revisions to the 1900s Lacey Act can cause a guitarist to lose his or her instrument when traveling outside the U.S.:
It's not enough to know that the body of your old guitar is made of spruce and maple: What's the bridge made of? If it's ebony, do you have the paperwork to show when and where that wood was harvested and when and where it was made into a bridge? Is the nut holding the strings at the guitar's headstock bone, or could it be ivory? "Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever," [Quinnipiac University law professor John] Thomas has written. "Oh, and you'll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration."
Suddenly, guitar forums typically engrossed in the minutia of fretboards, whammy bars, Led Zeppelin solos, and guitar string gauges became veritable Tea Party town halls. Over at Ultimate Guitar, user CoreysMonster didn't mince words:
Yeah, because this is totally going to stop illegal deforestation of endangered trees, you power-mad, bureaucracy
Over at the Acoustic Guitar Forum, TomHB likens it to "police state" behavior:
What scares me most about that article is that, as they claim, if your old Martin has an ebony bridge, you may need to have papers to prove it. This, if true, if just out of control. This is the pendulum swung WAY past the side of environmental protection, into police state territory.
As someone on another thread said, locals in these forests often have been destroying them more than any harvesting for guitar material has, but I do agree that we should do our part to not add to the destruction, with COMMON SENSE.
At the guitar forum Jam Session, Mr. Boston vents on the federal government's priorities:
Good to know there's no murder, rape, discrimination, theft, or fraud happening in the USA anymore and now the DoJ can concentrate on our REAL problem... the plight of Indian woodworkers!!!
So...wait... you can get prosecuted for simply owning a guitar made of the wrong dated wood? **** that noise. Trace the illegal lumber merchants, don't take it out on the misinformed consumer. Bitches, that's what your government are.
At Acoustic Guitar Forum, Morgan1 gets her Ayn Rand on:
Central planners and their nanny state supporters run amok. They believe that you are not smart enough to make your own decision when it comes to buying an instrument. You need their guidance, nay oversight...oh heck, let's just nationalize the guitar industry.
Our problem today is not jobs, debt or even wars. No, it's evil wood...THAT'S how we should be spending taxpayer dollars!
You could spend an entire day reading the fire hose of angry comments on each of these otherwise politically neutral forums. Did Obama just unintentionally lose the guitar-shredding demographic?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.