As a teenager during the 1970s, I put on my bell-bottom pants and shiny shirt to groove to the latest disco hits. I was not alone. Disco culture was highly popular and spawned a vast array of music, dance, and fashion. The records of the U.S. Copyright Office show many thousands of registrations for the creations of songwriters, singers, photographers, movie makers, writers, and others who contributed to the artistry of the time.
This month, the Library of Congress, home to the U.S. Copyright Office, presents a Bibliodiscotheque, a series of events exploring disco’s influence on popular music and dance since the 1970s. The lineup of programs features an appearance by disco icon Gloria Gaynor, whose “I Will Survive” is recognized in the National Recording Registry. The hit song was written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris and first performed by Gaynor in October 1978.
“I Will Survive” was covered by other singers, was remixed, and was performed by Gaynor in Spanish as “Yo Viviré.” A search of the U.S. Copyright Office database reveals a variety of copyright registrations for the song and derivative works.
I asked Gaynor a few questions about her work and the importance of copyright registration for artists.
Q: You’ve said in interviews that the many covers of your works are a tribute to you. How would you encourage other artists to enjoy other interpretations of their copyrighted work?
Gaynor: I would encourage them to recognize every interpretation as a tribute to them, since imitation is the highest form of compliment.
Q: There are many copyright registrations associated with your work. Does copyright encourage creativity in the music industry?
Gaynor: I would say it does, because it encourages each artist to try to make their work unique enough to warrant a copyright.
Q: Can you comment on why artists should register both the music and lyrics and the sound recordings of their songs, especially if the owner of the sound recording is not the owner of the lyrics?
Gaynor: Artists should register both the music and lyrics and their sound recordings of their songs, so that each creator gets proper credit for his or her input on a song. Also if someone uses one part without the other the creator still gets credit for his or her creativity.
Q: “I Will Survive” has been around for nearly forty years. How have changes in the music industry and the way people consume music impacted your career?
Gaynor: The changes in the music industry and the way people consume music has impacted the way people experience my music in a couple of ways. The fact that many people are streaming music and listening online instead of owning the music in the form of CDs or vinyl recordings has had a negative impact on the artists income from sale of [their] creativity. But it has also made music more readily available to my foreign public, which engenders foreign live engagements.
To learn more about copyright and how it promotes creativity and protects works, please visit our website.