Back in 2011, Gibson got raided – twice – by the government for allegedly violating the Lacey Act, and in August of this year settled with the government for $350,000 so it could continue to import woods from India and Madagascar. There are lots of arguments on either side of what transpired, and I’ve done a lot of reading on the issue since it happened. Despite Gibson’s claim of innocence – and there are some circumstances surrounding the investigations that Gibson may not be as culpable as proponents may think – and the government’s seeming zeal in pursuing this case, I’m a bit on the fence on the whole situation. Here’s a great blog post that I found that has some lively and mostly intelligent discussion on the issue.
No matter the events of the Gibson case, I’m mostly in support of the spirit of the law, though I have commented that the Lacey Act can be a bit ambiguous when it comes to the transportation of exotic woods (I’ve read the law), for the most part, I think it does a good job to help ensure that manufacturers of products that use exotic woods are getting them from legal sources. Where the law gets murky is that it is quite possible that end-users can get prosecuted if they attempt to transport an instrument made of exotic woods and the wood sources are not documented. Can you imagine if you owned a rare, antique guitar and it was confiscated by customs because it didn’t have documentation of its wood sources? Granted, that’s extreme, and it’s highly unlikely that a single person would be prosecuted, but the possibility exists; it’s also a reason that the law is regularly reviewed and amendments have been made. But despite that murkiness, I do not agree that the law should be repealed as some representatives in Congress are proposing. To me, the solution to the issues in the law isn’t to abolish it, but provide due process to amend the law so that it’s fair to all.
No doubt, this issue is complex, not only from the manufacturers’ standpoint, but from the buyers’ perspective as well. There are those folks who refuse to purchase anything that isn’t made of exotic wood. Me? My answer is “it depends…” The reason I say that is simply this: If it sounds great, and I can express myself with the guitar, I really don’t much care about what it’s made out of. But then again, I’m not really a collector, so trade value is far less important to me than someone who knows they’ll sell eventually sell a guitar.