Summer NAMM 2016 Issue Roundtable
PTG representatives Phil Bondi and Shawn Bruce attended the Summer NAMM 2016 Issues roundtable discussion on June 23rd in Nashville. Led by NAMM attorney Jim Goldberg and Mary Luehrsen, NAMM’s main public affairs staffer, the meeting provided insight into the new rules and procedures that are going into effect July 6 governing the sale of ivory.
The presentation confirmed our initial feelings that the music industry came out about as well as it could have in the new regulations with the inclusion of the de minimis exemption. Please note the de minimis exemption is NOT an antique exemption as that’s a different category with different criteria.
We both walked away with a couple of important things to keep in mind:
As much as we might want them to, the USFW is never going to give you affirmation that you’re doing everything correctly. They’ll give you guidelines but they’ll never tell you “good job” so don’t expect that.
Go home and sell instruments. Don’t sell ivory, sell the instrument.
US Fish and Wildlife Service De Minimis Exception Requirements
To qualify for the de minimis exception, manufactured or handcrafted items must meet all of the following criteria:
If the item is located within the United States, the ivory was imported into the United States prior to January 18, 1990, or was imported into the United States under a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) pre-Convention certificate with no limitation on its commercial use;
If the item is located outside the United States, the ivory was removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976;
The ivory is a fixed or integral component or components of a larger manufactured or handcrafted item and is not in its current form the primary source of the value of the item, that is, the ivory does not account for more than 50 percent of the value of the item;
The ivory is not raw;
The manufactured or handcrafted item is not made wholly or primarily of ivory, that is, the ivory component or components do not account for more than 50 percent of the item by volume;
The total weight of the ivory component or components is less than 200 grams; and
The item was manufactured or handcrafted before the effective date of this rule.
Goldberg made the point that the USFW based the 200-gram figure on the approximate weight of a set of piano keytops. Throughout the ruling, the USFW goes to great lengths to point out that they don’t believe musical instruments are contributing to the poaching of elephants or the ivory trade.
Much concern has been focused on what will be expected to satisfy the USFW in case they have questions about actual age.
There’s also some good news on that front as the USFW said, “Though not required, a qualified appraisal or another method of documenting the value of the item and the relative value of the ivory component, including, information in catalogs, price lists, and other similar materials, can also be used. We will not require ivory components to be removed from an item to be weighed.”
That means a letter from a piano technician, a photocopy of relevant information from the Pierce Piano Atlas and even, (as Goldberg suggested) a handmade certificate with information about age/model/etc. should prove sufficient. Again, the USFW says they know what they’re looking for in terms of ivory smuggling and musical instruments aren’t the problem.
Potential Issues Moving Forward
At this point, the new rules and regulations relating to repairs and the de minimis exemption are vague and there are no hard and fast rules spelled out in the new rule. At one point there was some language about repairs being allowed but replacement not. NAMM questioned that and the agency chose not to address the question in the final rule.
Per earlier Board direction, PTG has submitted additional questions to the USFW about repairs and replacement and we will share information when we receive it. That said, Goldberg suggested firm answers may not be necessary alluding to the fact that the enforcement efforts of the USFW are targeted towards different areas.
State Laws/Future Activity
New Jersey still continues to have a total ban on intrastate ivory sales but the new federal rule now allows someone in New Jersey to sell to a customer in Pennsylvania.
All other states with ivory laws (Washington, California, and New York) have musical instrument exemptions. Hawaii is expected to implement a law later this summer and it appears Oregon may put a referendum on the ballot. Goldberg said it’s also possible, with new federal rules in place, that we may see more states pass laws that emulate the federal level.
Again, we’re waiting on some answers from the USFW to technician-specific questions and we’ll share those when we receive them. We think it would also be proactive to put together some common Q & A best practices information for membership as we go forward. As this new rule is implemented, it’s going to be very important that we hear about experiences members have.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t express our sincere thanks to the wonderful folks at NAMM who have done a stellar job on behalf of the music industry on this issue, and who have also gone out of their way to include PTG.
Shawn Bruce, PTG Marketing Manager
Phil Bondi, PTG President