An international jury chose "Run Away," a song written by Pearu Paulus, Ilmar Laisaar, Alar Kotkas and Jana Hallas, and performed by Swedish singer Sahlene, out of 10 entries on Jan. 26.
But critics believe its refrain melody was copied from a popular hit by R. Kelly called "I Believe I Can Fly."
Estonian Television, the national public TV channel that supervises the song contest's organization, reported that over 40 percent of the 34,399 people who voted for their favorite song in Estonia supported the feelgood "Another Country Song" by the Nightlight Duo and the Cowboys. But the jury preferred Sahlene.
Alar Kotkas, one of the composers of "Run Away," denied his song is an imitation.
"I know the two songs are similar, but I don't see any problem with that. That our song is good was proven by the jury's decision," said Kotkas.
There are many cases when songs sound alike, he said. "After all, we all listen to the radio and CDs, and it's clear that something from those remains in our memory. But it's ridiculous and senseless to make a song after another one."
Sven Lohmus, the writer of "Another Country Song," told the newspaper Eesti Paevaleht that some of those who lost to Sahlene sang R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" in the concert hall bar after the competition.
The Eurovision 2002 press service reported there is no reason to doubt the originality of "Run Away" until someone files an official complaint.
The next Eurovision Song Contest, an event Estonians enjoyed even before they won last year, will take place in Tallinn on May 26.
Swedish Ambassador to Estonia Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier was one of the first people to congratulate Sahlene.
"Her victory in Estonia shows there are good relations between our countries. But," she reminded, "in May, Estonia and Sweden will become tough competitors."
Hundreds of negative comments about the fact that a Swede is to represent Estonia the year it hosts the event flooded local online publications. People expressed their regret.
But Sahlene, 25, said after the concert that it was an unexpected victory for her as she had started to work with the Estonian songwriters just two weeks before the final deadline.
Sahlene released an album in Sweden last year. She has also done some acting, and had a role in a children's movie based on a book by the late Astrid Lindgren.
According to TT Spektra, a music wire service connected to the Tidningarnas Telegrambyra news agency in Sweden, two evening papers covered Sahlene's success in Estonia, stressing that there will be another Swede to cheer for at the Eurovision Song Contest.