Reason.tv has posted an excellent video on the continuing saga of the Justice Department’s war on Gibson guitars. In August, I blogged about the Justice Department’s latest raid on the Gibson guitar factory. Six months later, the company has yet to be charged with anything.
Gibson was allegedly importing wood for guitar fingerboards in violation of Indian law, which in turn violates the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act criminalizes the trafficking in certain goods that were taken in violation of other countries’ laws, and it was originally passed to make domestic trade in poached animals a crime in the United States.
But the Act has expanded far beyond its original purposes and it now is used to prosecute companies for violations that have nothing to do with environmental protection, such as labor laws. The Lacey Act is also inherently vague and malleable. It allows government officials to interpret foreign laws and, as I wrote in my original post and as Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz points out in the video, it even permits US officials to ignore the other country’s interpretation of its own laws. As a result, the Lacey Act has been a major source of overcriminalization, which is an issue that Cato has been fighting for some time.
Check out the video below.