Pitbull & Ke$ha vs. Lee Oskar


This one just came across my desk. Apparently Lee Oskar never authorized the use of his”San Francisco Bay” harmonica melody in Pitbull’s “Timber”. It looks like this particular case below deals specifically with international use.

Pitbull ft. Ke$ha - "Timber" (2013)
Lee Oskar - "San Francisco Bay" (1978)

Some press on the issue:

On June 25, 2014, it was reported that songwriters Lee Oskar, Keri Oskar, and Greg Errico had filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the makers of “Timber”, which features a harmonica melody that Oskar claims is “identical” to the melody used in his 1978 song “San Francisco Bay”. The songwriters are seeking $3 million USD in damages. The lawsuit alleges that while Sony Music may have obtained permission to use the sample, which is credited in the album notes for Meltdown, from a license holder, the label failed to obtain permission from the songwriters themselves.

Here is some legal talk:

In copyright infringement action arising out of international release of song “Timber” by performing artists Pitbull and Kesha, district court dismisses claims against Sony Music Entertainment, which obtained license from co-owner of allegedly infringed work, but denies motion to dismiss claims that Sony’s foreign affiliates infringed plaintiffs’ work under foreign law.

Plaintiffs, the co-authors of “San Francisco Bay,” a 1978 song performed by Lee Oskar Levitin featuring a distinctive harmonica riff, sued Sony Music Entertainment and other domestic entities, as well as Sony’s foreign affiliates, for domestic and foreign copyright infringement following the international release of the song “Timber” by rapper Pitbull and pop star Kesha. Plaintiffs alleged that the song contains the same harmonica solo and melody as “San Francisco Bay” and that the “Timber” harmonica player was, in fact, specifically instructed to emulate Levitin’s harmonica riff. Plaintiffs also alleged that the domestic defendants made the song “available” to the foreign defendants, which, in turn, released “Timber” in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Australia, France and South Korea. All defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, and the foreign defendants also moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and on the basis of forum non conveniens. The court granted dismissal of only the claims against the U.S. defendants.
– Levitin v. Sony Music Entertainment – USDC, Southern District of New York, April 22, 2015


Take note guys. It takes SIXTEEN (16) people to write a song these days.  Here is what is listed on Wikipedia. Lee Oskar is on there although I don’t know if that is official. But wait… look who else is on there:

Kesha Sebert
Armando C. Pérez
Lukasz Gottwald <<<< This Guy
Aaron Davis Arnold
Priscilla Hamilton
Jamie Sanderson
Breyan Stanley Isaac
Henry Walter
Pebe Sebert
Lee Oskar
Keri Oskar
Greg Errico
Steve Arrington
Charles Carter
Waung Hankerson
Roger Parker

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10 Replies to “Pitbull & Ke$ha vs. Lee Oskar”

  1. H.D. Bruton

    Sixteen writers on Timber… and only one for Bohemian Rhapsody. If this isn’t definitive proof of the decline of the music industry, I don’t know what is.

    Wait… Dr. Luke?! You again!

      1. Haasey

        For once, Dr Luke isn’t the main issue.
        The main issue this time is 16 BLOODY SONGWRITERS!

        How many songwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
        One to write a song about it.
        10 to edit it, layer it and tweak it.
        3 to spruik it.
        2 to sing about it.

    1. Keith Post author

      Thanks, just checked it out. It’s pretty close and then it’s a little different at the end. But might be post-worthy 🙂

  2. Courtney

    Mr. Oskar might want to talk to whomever made the music for Tumbleweed Restaurants commercials. I started seeing and hearing these right after Timber was all over the radio. It sounds exactly like Timber with a sassy sounding woman ooh-oohing over a similar harmonica type groove. I will try to find a video clip. How do they govern something like this in advertising or commercial ads/jingles?


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