Eurovision hitmakers said to ink deal with US label over ‘Toy’ plagiarism claim

Composers of contest-winning entry said to give Universal Music Studios partial rights to song, ending dispute over similarities to White Stripe’s ‘Seven Nation Army’

Winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest Netta Barzilai performs at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on May 14, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest Netta Barzilai performs at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on May 14, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The composers of Israel’s winning entry in the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest are reportedly about to sign a deal with a major US record corporation to end a legal threat over alleged plagiarism, according to a Wednesday report.

Universal Music Studios, one of the world’s biggest music companies, sent a pre-suit notice letter two months ago to Doron Medalie and Stav Beger, who jointly wrote the song, “Toy,” claiming that Netta Barzilai’s contest-winning hit was copied from The White Stripe’s 2003 song, “Seven Nation Army.”

According to a Ynet report, Medalie and Beger will give Universal some of the distribution rights of the song in certain countries, resolving claims of copyright infringement.

Both sides will reportedly benefit from the deal because, with the backing of Universal, the song will reach a much larger audience.

If upheld, claims of copyright infringement could have disqualified “Toy’s” eligibility to participate in Eurovision, meaning Israel could have been stripped of its win, and in turn losing Israel hosting rights for the 2019 tournament. Eurovision entries must be original material.

“The agreement is expected to be signed in the coming days,” sources told Ynet. “Medalie has been in the US for a month and a half in order to end this saga.”

Many have observed that the two songs have a similar baseline — as is the case of many other pairs of songs — but Universal’s attorneys alleged that similarities in rhythm and harmony constitute copyright infringement.

In March, Haaretz writer Ben Shalev noted of “Toy” that “the music closely resembles ‘Seven Nation Army’ by The White Stripes. Let’s hope Jack White doesn’t hear this song before the Eurovision Song Contest. He may sue.”

Doron Medalie, the hitmaker behind hundreds of Israeli songs as well as the latest Eurovision entry, ‘Toy.’ (Courtesy Doron Medalie)

News of the imminent deal came a day after Israel’s public broadcaster and the government reached a last-minute deal to end a spat over funding for hosting next year’s contest, which had left Israel’s hosting duties in jeopardy.

Representatives of public broadcaster Kan accepted a proposal by the Finance Ministry for submitting a guarantee of €12 million ($14 million) to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to reserve the right to host the event.

The guarantee will be returned once the contest takes place. Kan had demanded extra funds on top of its annual budget of around NIS 750 million ($200 million), saying it feared an eventuality in which it would lose the guarantee if the contest were to be canceled for security reasons or due to international pressure by boycott groups.

The government had refused to give any money to the broadcaster, claiming that its annual budget was sufficient to cover the costs.

The sides traded strongly worded statements accusing each other of endangering the hosting of the event.

According to the agreement reached Tuesday, Kan said it would take a loan to front the money, on the provision that should the contest be canceled for reasons out of its control, the Finance Ministry would find a way to reimburse the broadcaster.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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