Which songs recorded by Elvis Presley are in the public domain?
May 23, 2023 5:07 AM   Subscribe

I recently found out that “Are You Lonesome Tonight” entered the public domain, which got me wondering: which songs did Elvis Presley record that are now PD?

Obviously, the hymns are, and I know about “Love Me Tender” used the melody of “Aura Lee”. Are there other non-hymn pop songs Elvia recorded that are in the public domain?
posted by pxe2000 to Media & Arts (10 answers total)

This list of PD songs, and this list of songs Elvis covered, might make a good comparison.
posted by box at 5:57 AM on May 23

Also Sprach Zarathustra is public domain
posted by Chenko at 6:55 AM on May 23

Best answer: (Honestly, so many high-ranking google results are machine-generated text these days that it's not unreasonable to want input from humans with domain knowledge.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:38 AM on May 23 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: I was looking for a list of songs and the first Google hit was an extensive description of PD law and how Presley's catalog was affected by it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by pxe2000 at 8:54 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]

posted by tiny frying pan at 9:01 AM on May 23

This is a really interesting question! It's providing me with a lot of welcome distraction from work. I'm really not finding many/any. Most of his covers were of very recently released songs, so their writing dated from maybe a couple years before Elvis recorded then. Even the standards tend to only go back to the 1930s, so they're still in copyright. With songs like "Love Me Tender," the lyrics are probably still under copyright. Same with "It's Now or Never," which uses the melody of "O Sole Mio," and "Surrender" and "I Can't Help Falling in Love," which also adapt traditional Italian and French melodies. I would guess that outside of the religious and Christmas songs, there might not be more than a couple of album tracks.
posted by goatdog at 12:09 PM on May 23

IANAL, but I am an obsessive music nerd who took a bunch of classes in ethnomusicology in college, just for fun.

Even when the copyrights on compositions fall into the public domain, recordings of those songs also have copyright protection, for 100 years in the US, as long as all of the proper paperwork was filed.

I mean, if Taylor Swift records "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" it's not like that is in the public domain. It just means she and her record company don't have to pay publishing.

While some of the compositions Elvis Presley covered have entered public domain, positively none of his recordings have done so, and under US copyright law none will begin to enter PD for another 31 years.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:53 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]

(I believe the OP was likely clear on that, but some of the links completely failed to make that distinction, so...)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:00 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

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