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I Will Survive

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.

disco ball in front of building

Library of Congress, James Madison Memorial Building

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?

Gloria Gaynor

Courtesy of Gloria Gaynor.

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.

7 Comments

  1. Mike B.
    May 3, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Gaynor didn’t mention her fight to reclaim the rights to the “I Will Survive” recordings under the 35-year reversion/termination provision in US copyright law. Are the companies who continue to profit off of her work still trying to weasel out of letting her get control of the masters, or did she work out something with them, or what? While searching for answers online (I found none), I noticed Sony’s publishing arm managed to fend off Duran Duran’s termination attempt this year, using the UK contract they signed as teenagers to nullify their US claim. Who exactly is copyright helping…

  2. Frank Bruno
    September 23, 2017 at 12:34 am

    How much money has the song “I WILL SURVIVE” for the writers?

  3. George Thuronyi
    September 25, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Thanks for your question. The U.S. Copyright Office serves as a public record for copyright registrations and documents related to copyright. We don’t, however, keep track of sales and proceeds for the various creative works that are registered.

  4. Anne Marie
    January 30, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    I would like to ask if we still need to get copyright if were going to use the song in a non commercial short film? We’re planning to make our own version of the song in this short film

  5. George Thuronyi
    February 4, 2019 at 7:44 am

    We can’t provide specific legal advice about your situation. Copyright law provides the owner of the copyright in a work–often the author of the work–with the exclusive rights to reproduce, adapt, publicly distribute, publicly perform, and publicly display the work, or authorize others to engage in these activities. These exclusive rights are subject to certain limitations, established in sections 107 through 122 of the copyright law. “Fair use” is one of the more commonly known limitations, and information on this topic can be found at the Copyright Office’s Fair Use Index. You can also find information about contacting copyright owners in How to Obtain Permission.

  6. Randy Brown
    May 23, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    I would like to be able to use two lines of lyrics from ‘I Will Survive’ in the book I’m writing. Who is the copyright holder so I can contact them.
    thank you
    Randy Brown

  7. George Thuronyi
    May 28, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for your question. I quick look in our online catalog shows a 1978 registration for I Will Survive for words and music by Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren. However, rights, especially for popular songs, are sometimes transferred to other people or companies. So, a thorough search would require looking in our online catalog for recorded documents of such transfers to find the current owner.

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