Firm News & Events

BRC Advises on Ivory, Other Restricted Materials for Musical Instruments

July 18, 2014

New York-based BRC attorney Helena Sullivan was retained earlier this year to represent a leading maker in the musical instrument/bowmaking industry on issues relating to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (known as CITES).  She developed compliance guidelines and engaged with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on the ivory issue that is of pressing concern to musical instrument makers, orchestras and musicians alike at this time.  Through her dealings with makers of these instruments and industry groups, Helena is well versed in the many different materials that may be incorporated in such instruments, some of which are antique and of historical significance. 

Many instruments and bows substitute mammoth ivory for elephant ivory, but there are practical difficulties in distinguishing between them and some U.S. states are enacted their own laws regarding ivory which specifically include mammoth.  Woods used in instruments may also be subject to restriction, depending on the genus and species.  Many other materials which historically have been used in instruments are restricted.  Thus, importers and makers of musical instruments, as well as orchestras and musicians who travel abroad must be aware of and comply with these complex and frequently changing laws and regulations.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has developed a musical instrument passport to assist musicians with frequent international travel, but the musician must first understand whether their instrument contains CITES or Endangered Species Act material.  Thus, an analysis of musical instruments on a case-by-case basis will be necessary.