Federal agents have raided the Gibson Guitar factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, computer data and guitars.
Gibson's chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz accused the Justice Department of bulying their company, saying their wood is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier and that the feds are using needlessly aggressive tactics.
Agents last seized guitars and wood from Gibson in 2009, and the resulting case continues under the title "United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms." On that occasion, the wood was seized to find out whether Gibson had been making instruments out of wood from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony which is known for making excellent fretboards, though according to the Wall Street Journal, this is not by itself an illegal offence.
The current raid seems to be to discover whether wood sourced from India met importing requirements.
Other instrument companies could be feeling the heat, with the potential for their businesses to see the same kind of raid on their stock.
John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a blues guitarist, says "there's a lot of anxiety, and it's well justified." He once took his vintage guitars along on his travels, but no more. Now, "I don't go out of the country with a wooden guitar."
Some musicians are reportedly settling for carbon fiber instruments to avoid the implications of transporting certain woods worldwide.