Traveling with Elephants, Frogs, and Turtles

It's time for our favourite blog series on legal advice for musicians - this time tackling the important aspect of traveling to the U.S. with an instrument containing ivory parts...

As many of you know, the U.S. and many other countries currently are implementing a ban on the importation/exportation of certain types of ivory and other materials derived from endangered species. The ban relates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by the U.S. and 189 other countries. The purpose of the CITES treaty is to ensure that international trade in these specimens does not threaten their survival. Save the elephants and the sea turtles!

Although there has been much confusion and uncertainty about how the ban applies to certain musicians and their instruments, there is some good news! New U.S. regulations have clarified this issue a bit, making international transport of an instrument containing a banned species a bit simpler.

Several of the changes clarify and broaden the scope of what musical instruments may be transported. If an instrument contains limited amounts of African ivory, or a few other banned materials (such as rosewood and sea turtle shell), the instrument may be transported internationally if it meets ALL of these requirements:

- The ivory was acquired legally, and was removed from the wild before February 26, 1976;

- The instrument is accompanied by a CITES passport;

- The instrument is “securely marked” so that authorities at the border can verify that the passport applies to the instrument presented; AND

- The instrument will not be sold while the passport holder is outside his country of residence.

Note that passports will be issued ONLY for instruments containing less than 200 grams of ivory (an amount about the size of a billiard ball). Generally, the veneer of a piano’s keys would fall within this limit, as would the ivory contained in the tip or frog of a bow.

While the new rules are helpful, a number of potential problems with the passport system remain. One of the most burdensome is that the passport currently is accepted at a very limited number of U.S. ports. There are 18 ports that permit items containing materials from endangered species of animals, or both plants and animals, to be brought into the country. There are 15 ports that allow items containing material from banned plants only (such as rosewood and other types of wood). In theory, one may request entry into a non-designated U.S. port, but the process for obtaining this permission is unclear, and it will vary from port to port.

To obtain complete information on the CITES treaty, and how it affects musical instrument transport, visit the League of American Orchestras’ website at http://americanorchestras.org/advocacy-government/travel- with-instruments/endangered- species- material.html. The League’s website includes comprehensive and up-to- date information on this issue, and many others affecting orchestras. Kudos to Heather Noonan, the League’s Vice President for Advocacy, who has devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to this cause and others. She works tirelessly on behalf of musicians and orchestras, constantly reminding U.S. elected officials that the arts, and artists, matter. Thank you Heather!

You can always find more information on our website: www.ggartslaw.com. And if there’s something in particular you want to know about, be sure to let us know!


THE OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE! The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. One size never fits all. Circumstances and solutions can, and do, vary. Please consult with a professional—legal, medical, or otherwise—familiar with your specific facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a nasty email, quoting us out of context, or doing anything rash!

Brian Taylor Goldstein and Robyn Guilliams are the founding partners of GG Arts Law, a New York-based entertainment law firm, as well as Managing Directors of Goldstein Guilliams International, through which they provide comprehensive business, project and tour management, and legal services exclusively to the international performing arts and entertainment community. Brian has twice been recognized as one of New York's "Super Lawyers" in the fields of Entertainment, Intellectual Property and Immigration in The New York Times and is a well-known speaker and author on arts and artist management. Robyn is an internationally recognized specialist in foreign artist taxation and artist business matters, as well as a Co-Author of Artistsfromabroad.org, with an impressive past career in arts administration and management at major venues and arts organizations.
Author: Brian Goldstein
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