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co-operating. One disappointed victim of Tradetang.com from the US (who wished to remain nameless) told us, ‘What disappointed me – more than the merchant – was the dismal lacklustre performance of my state and federal officials; who, at almost every turn, thought it was someone else’s jurisdiction. They all said it was an isolated case. This was more like a plague they refuse to see. Let’s not leave out Paypal and the credit card people, who say they’ll stand by you – until they have to put their money where their mouth is against a big business entity.’ From our research, this seems to be a common story.

Genuine – and copyrighted – Fender and Gibson headstocks as advanced or understood as in some other countries. There can be a genuine desire to help, but the understanding or the resources can be lacking.’

One outspoken voice is that of Rickenbacker CEO John Hall, who believes that the pressure is having an effect. ‘On the one hand [the problem] is getting worse, more blatant and ubiquitous,’ he reflects. ‘Still, I think we’re seeing the leading edge of measures to crack down and control obvious counterfeiters. While the Chinese police are only doing “lip service” enforcement for the moment to give the appearance of cooperation, I think they’re smart enough to realise that they must become part of the solution… otherwise something less palatable may be forced upon them.’ Thwaites agrees; ‘I believe the Chinese government is very serious about the problem, he explains, ‘but I don’t think guitars are high on the agenda. There are much bigger fish to fry, for now.’ . If Beijing’s legendary Silk Street Market, famous for its fake fashion goods, is anything to go by, there’s a long way to go. ‘The market is on every tourist’s agenda,’ Thwaites explains. ‘Dozens of large tour buses come and go all day, every day. Once in a while the government cracks down, usually in response to some special event or special visitor. There

‘Only so many forms can handle the function of a guitar. The headstock really defines the brand’ – Bryan Petersen, Guitar Center will be a widely announced “campaign” where they seize and destroy an immense number of counterfeit items. Those of us who have been here a while are aware, however, that it will be business as usual after a few weeks.’

This is clearly a deeply embedded problem that won’t be sorted out overnight, and it’s not just the Chinese authorities who aren’t fully

The current recession isn’t helping matters. ‘It’s not unusual to see an upturn in counterfeiting during hard economic times,’ says Fender’s Graeme Mathieson. With the economic landscape looking increasingly grim, the demand is likely to increase and, with it, the amount of dodgy guitars coming off the factory line. ‘With China’s economy in recession and the pressure over currency manipulation growing, this issue will get bigger,’ states Bryan Petersen, an operations manager at Guitar Center. ‘China will have to come around to legitimacy. If manufacturers made some moves about pulling their other products from China, the situation would change in a hurry. This is the power manufacturers have that they aren’t using. Yet.’

East to west While China is the primary source of fakes, mostly sold over the net, the guitars have been known to find their way into retail outlets in the West. ‘It is extremely difficult for the average Chinese person to travel overseas,’ says Richard Thwaites. ‘One has to ask: how are these guitars getting into the USA? The vast majority must be travelling via

22 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012

Fakes: note the poor head shape and three-screw trussrod cover

(far left) and inaccurate Tele headstock (right)

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