The electropop song “Toy” that won last year’s Eurovision as the Israeli submission was embroiled in a copyright dispute with Universal Music Group because of rhythmic similarities with “Seven Nations Army” performed by the White Stripes and composed by Jack White.
“Seven Nation Army” is one of the most recognized songs from the 00’s, having won several awards (such as, Best Rock song at Grammy Awards) and is widely used in sporting events across the world.
The clearest basis for the copyright claim is heard when Netta sings “I’m not your toy, stupid boy”, where the rhythmic and harmonic sequences closely resemble the iconic riff of “Seven Nations Army”. There are several videos online that mashup both songs, here or here.
In order to assert their rights, Universal sent an infringement letter to the composers of “Toy”, Doron Medalie and Stav Beger. If the matter had proceeded to court and if Toy was found to have infringed upon “Seven Nations Army”, the title of winner of the Eurovision song contest would be stripped, due to Eurovision’s rules against plagiarism.
Jack White (The White Stripes) is co-credited as composer of Eurovision’s winner “Toy” performed by Netta
In order to avoid such outcome, Universal and Toy’s composers reached an agreement where Jack White is co-credited as composer of “Toy” and he receives a part of the revenues of the song, i.e. royalties.
This extrajudicial agreement was the best possible way to guarantee that the rights of Universal (and Jack White) were enforced, while avoiding a court dispute between the parties that could take several years to solve.
On the other hand, the composers of “Toy” also appear to have favored an extrajudicial agreement because a court action could prove too burdensome, especially if the decision was unfavorable. One might recall the recent decision where Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had to pay $5m in damages to the Marvin Gaye family for the track “Blurred Lines”.
Interestingly, the iconic riff from the “Seven Nations Army” is inspired by a section of Bruckner’s 5th Symphony (listen here).