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Passports for Guitars

AndoAndo South Bend, INModerator
edited April 2013 in Archtop Eddy's Corner
If you get in an airplane with a guitar that has rosewood in it, you're obviously importing and exporting endangered or contraband materials. So countries are going to vote on whether musical instruments need separate passports:

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/ ... -passports

I find this proposal outrageous but am interested in what others think. Is this for real? If so, I think it's outrageous.


  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    It does seem outrageous at first glance, but it would bring a lot more certainty into what is now very much a crap shoot. The international endangered species laws are already being enforced and there is a belief, right or wrong, that musical instruments, guitars especially, are major offenders. Right now each time you cross a foreign border including our own, your guitar is subject to inspection and if challenged and you can't prove that Cites and Lacey treaty regulated materials are not in there somewhere or you don't have the proper documentation as being pre-treaty if there are, they you might very well have the instrument confiscated. There is typically no appeal and if confiscated, there is almost NO chance of getting it back. The threat is very real, just search CITES and LACEY treaties. And if you are lucky, confiscation is all that happens as there are provisions for fines and incarceration.

    Much of this is adjudicated on the spot by a customs agent. We all know wood identification is real art. Even those with years of experience are sometimes stumped. Not all Rosewood looks the same, in fact there is considerable variation. Might someone, with little training, bad eyesight and a hangover, think your Indian Rosewood is Brazilian? Ebony is even worse, some are highly endangered, others are not, but very hard to tell which is which once built into a guitar.

    So to me, as outrageous as it sounds, having a universal document that protects a musical instrument from confiscation sounds like a change for the better. It would take a great deal of worry out of the equation. It will require some upfront paper work but once done, its done. Better than just trying to fly low under radar and hoping for the best.

    Just my opinion.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    edited March 2013
    Let me shorten that rant...

    The fact is that we have a very immediate and time-critical problem with wood poachers and animal poachers. These people ravage nature and endanger the biodiversity upon which we all depend for our lives. They engage in unspeakable cruelty to animals both directly, and through desecrating their habitat. Yet instead of going after the problem in the forests and oceans and at the ports and raw materials processing centers where it can be addressed, they are allowing the problem to continue, and passing legislation which incorrectly assigns the blame, the risk, and the cost of the problem and allows for the unwarranted search and seizure of private property. Worse still, the law is enforced by low level government employees who have taken a few ongoing-education courses and so are unqualified to identify the vast array of controlled specimens, but who are given authority to seize your property and never give it back. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong, suspicion equals guilt - and that is a problem because free and democratic societies do not allow suspicion to equal guilt and so this law is widely recognized to be unlawful. Yet instead of going back to the problem and solving it, they are attempting to keep the unlawful law in place and ameliorate its flaws by creating laws that require people to preemptively declare that they are not committing crimes because the people enforcing the laws are unable to do so fairly and accurately. Now the responsibility and cost for the crimes... as well as the responsibility and cost for the laws are both placed on the people who are not committing crimes. Oh, and in the meantime, poachers around the world continue to commit unspeakable acts.

    We have satellites that can read license plates, we have drones that can see heat signatures through obstacles, and we know where these endangered habitats are... My guess - and feel free to call me crazy - but my guess is that if we want this problem to stop, we would be much better off going after poachers than asking Fiona Monbet to stand in line at a government office and pay $90 for a piece of paper which declares that traveling around playing music for people does not make her a smuggler.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Had no idea. Bob is spot on. Imbecilic, with disastrous consequences. Letters to reps coming.
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Letters to reps coming.

    Well, but be careful.

    Those passports - ridiculous and unlawful as they may be - are designed to help you and other musicians cover your asses.

    But they put people like me in a very awkward situation because if these ridiculous things get approved, I might have to go find receipts for every piece of wood I've ever purchased so I can prove that I don't use controlled species. Not to prove that I'm using legally obtained controlled species, but to prove that I'm not doing anything that requires their control.

    That's chilling. People who come up with ideas like that are the kind of people who tend to say things like: "Well, if you're not doing anything wrong, then why do you mind if we check up on you?"

    And I have never trusted people like that.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • Joli GadjoJoli Gadjo Cardiff, UK✭✭✭✭ Derecho, Bumgarner - VSOP, AJL
    Makes you think twice when you buy a "Gypsy Mystery"... How do you prove the origin, the age of the instrument and the types of wood? Who are the experts who can certify that?
    - JG
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Bob, it is chilling. You and your colleagues giving us such incredible instruments deserve better. You're already walking the higher, more noble path, just doing what you do. Incredibly maddening.

    Joli, excellent point.
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • Joli GadjoJoli Gadjo Cardiff, UK✭✭✭✭ Derecho, Bumgarner - VSOP, AJL
    It seems there are several websites that report that the issue on Instruments passports has been voted.
    I cannot find though how we can get those passport.
    Did anyone follow this?
    http://topnews.net.nz/content/226946-pr ... nstruments
    - JG
  • kevingcoxkevingcox Nova Scotia✭✭✭✭ Dupont MD50
    Bob, I may be stating the obvious here but passports generate money while going after poachers costs money. Which option a government will choose is pretty self-evident, imho.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Bob Holo wrote:

    That's chilling. People who come up with ideas like that are the kind of people who tend to say things like: "Well, if you're not doing anything wrong, then why do you mind if we check up on you?"

    And I have never trusted people like that.

    That's for sure. Well said!

    PS- how do you guys get the quotes in the boxes???
  • Joli GadjoJoli Gadjo Cardiff, UK✭✭✭✭ Derecho, Bumgarner - VSOP, AJL
    I am having a lot of fun today.
    I have a guitar right now stuck in US customs, and am asked to fill up all kinds of forms to certify that my guitar isn't made of any wood that falls under regulation.
    Where can I get one of those damn passports...
    - JG
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