Universal Music Group is threatening to sue the songwriters of Netta Barlizai’s Eurovision-winning song “Toy” for alleged plagiarism, the Guy Pines entertainment news show reported on Tuesday.
The music company sent a pre-suit notice letter to the songwriters of the popular tune—Doron Medalie and Stav Beger, claiming copyright infringement. The song apparently has parts that are similar to White Stripes’ hit “Seven Nation Army.”
Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that the possible solution to the emerging crisis could be turning over Toy’s rights over to Universal, which would make the company the song’s publisher and distributor.
This move would force the songwriters to share the royalties, but a company as big and influential as Universal would invest more in Toy’s promotion, which would increase the earnings of all parties involved.
A scenario in which the song could be stripped of its Eurovision winning title is unlikely, since there is no actual legal claim.
Nevertheless, if one of the countries was to request the song’s retroactive disqualification due to its alleged plagiarism, then it would become a problem. So far, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC) hasn't received any updates on the matter, and they’re continuing preparations to host next year’s contest.
Sources in the music industry say the motivation behind Universal’s claim is financial, as they want to become the song’s distributor.
“Enough time has passed since the song’s release for them to figure out whether it has been plagiarized,” said a veteran music producer.
“It’s a cynical and aggressive move by a company that knows it would get the distribution rights. If they were convinced the song was copied, there would have been cries of outrage a long time ago. After all, Toy was a dazzling success even before the Eurovision."
Stav Beger, the song’s co-writer, addressed the copyright claims in a Yedioth Ahronoth interview.
“I am not a person who works with references at all. No other songs were in my head. Generally, we live in a world where there’s a thin line between plagiarism and similarity, and all the possible melodies have already been invented,” concluded Berger.
Doron Medalie, who flew on Tuesday to meet with Universal representatives in Los Angeles, said he was surprised to receive the pre-suit notice letter.
“We were surprised to get a letter of this kind, but we’ll deal with it. I believe that in the next two weeks, this issue will be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides,” added Medalie.
Attorney Eli Nahum, who specializes in copyright claims, explained how he sees the situation being resolved.
"Let’s dissect the 'Toy' case, the claim is regarding the harmonic progression in the chorus. In my view, it’s not plagiarism, if it was, then half of the songs out there would’ve been considered as either plagiarized or stolen. There are millions of songs with similar harmonic progressions. I don’t believe this case will reach court, a compromise between the two sides will be reached,” Nahum asserted.