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ISAN - FAQS

1. What’s an ISAN?

2. What is an ISAN used for?

3. When and where can I get an ISAN?


4. What is an Audiovisual work?


5. Why does my work need an ISAN?


6. Who will use ISAN?

7. Which industries will benefit?

8. What are the benefits of using ISAN?


9. Who are the primary users of ISAN?


10. How much does an ISAN cost, including any ongoing costs?


11. What information do I need to provide to obtain an ISAN?


12. How can I display my ISAN? What format is the artwork?


13. Will the details provided for my ISAN be made publicly available?


14. How does the episode numbering work?


15. Screenrights has some of my data, how can I get a list?


16. Is it compulsory?


17. How does the ISAN affect copyright registration?


18. Does ISAN cover any non- audio visual elements?


19. Who developed the ISAN?

20. What is ISAN-IA & how is it different from ISAN?

21. How do Ad-ID and ISAN work together?



1. What is an ISAN?

The International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN) is a voluntary numbering system for the identification of audio visual works. ISAN gives registered works a unique, permanent, internationally recognised, reference number.

ISAN is designed to be read by humans and processed in information systems, as a 24-bit hexadecimal number or as a 96-bit binary number, for easier systems integration.

The structure of an ISAN reflects many hours of careful analysis and thought by leading audio visual industry experts. It has been designed to meet the diverse needs of the entire audio visual supply chain.

ISAN Number Definition

ISAN Number Definition

The ISAN is divided into three sections – the root, episode and version sections. The root section identifies a work throughout its existence whether it is a feature film, serial, documentary, live broadcast or any other type of work. The episode section identifies parts of a serial work sharing a common root. In the case where different versions of a work are created, these differences can be indicated by the use of the version section of the ISAN. Versions may represent differences in language, content and format.

The ISAN is not a "content descriptor". It is a "dumb" number, meaning that it does not include any codes or other signifying elements. Its purpose is to identify the work with a unique number, not to provide any type of descriptive information about the work. ISAN can be affixed to any work, digital or analogue.

ISAN identifies individual audio visual works, not publications, nor right holders and relates to specific descriptive metadata such as original and alternative titles, language, type, duration, cast etc.

ISAN is an ISO standard, designed for all users of audio visual content from authors, creators, producers, and rights holders, to broadcasters, platform operators, content aggregators, retailers and consumers.

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2. What is an ISAN used for?

An ISAN uniquely distinguishes one audio visual work from all other audio visual works. An ISAN is a centrally registered and permanently assigned reference number.  Each ISAN is a unique number permanently assigned to an audio visual work, and can identify that work across national boundaries and language barriers.  The work it references is identified by a metadata set. . This metadata applies to all types of works, including versions of feature films, documentaries, television programs, videos, games, trailers, advertising, and live broadcasts. Other methods of identifying audio visual works, such as by title, can result in confusion about the specific work being referenced. For example, one title can be very similar to another.  Titles also change when a work is distributed beyond its country (or countries) of origin and the title is translated into other languages

As a unique identifier, the ISAN is useful in a wide range of computers ed applications, particularly those which involve databases or other content related to an audiovisual work and will be used in production and distribution systems, broadcasting applications and electronic program guides or the exchange of information about audio visual works.  

Some of its possible adaptations of ISAN are:

  • Archive management
  • Royalty management
  • Television program guide linking
  • Tracking the use of audio visual works for anti-piracy
  • Rights management
  • Audience measurement
Once an ISAN is assigned it cannot be deleted—only modified by the registrant, the registrant’s designated registration agency, or the International Agency.

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3. When and where can I get an ISAN?

The ISAN standard was approved and published in November 2002. The ISAN International Agency that administers the system is established in Geneva, Switzerland.  

An ISAN can only be issued by appointed Registration Agencies (RAs) via the ISAN System following a strict set of guidelines to ensure data accuracy and system integrity. To promote worldwide usage, ISAN services are offered to the market through registration agencies.

In order to obtain an ISAN, you need to:

Apply for an account with ISAN Australasia as an ISAN registrant and wait for approval. As a first step visit the Create Account section of this website and download an application form. Our Business Development Manager will then contact you to discuss your needs in detail.

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4. What is an Audiovisual work?

The ISAN standard defines "audio visual work" as follows:

A work consisting of a sequence of related images, with or without accompanying sound, which is intended to be made visible as a moving image through the use of devices, regardless of the medium of initial or subsequent fixation.

AN ISAN can be applied to all types of audio visual work in digital form (e.g. DVD) and in analogue form (e.g. celluloid film), including motion pictures and short films, trailers, video games, television productions, individual episodes of television series, training films, commercials, broadcasts and recordings of live events (such as sports events and newscasts), video games, music video clips, composite and multimedia works if they contain a significant audiovisual component, as well as non-linear works including compilations.

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5. Why does my work need an ISAN?

The global digital environment has seen, and will continue to see, a rapid expansion in ways of using audio visual works – both legally and illegally. An ISAN is the most effective means of identifying your work in this environment, improving efficiencies in managing rights data, exchanging information about the work, tracking use and protecting against piracy

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6. Who will use ISAN?

The ISAN will bring greater efficiency in tasks of the content creators, facilitators and end-users of audiovisual content. An ISAN benefits:

  • library and information services
  • audio-visual copyright management
  • buyers and licensees of content, such as broadcasters and distributors
  • broadcast programmers and schedulers
  • secondary rights holders who derive income streams from content use
  • those seeking to track unauthorised use of content

Other supporters of ISAN include the airline video industry organization, the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) and Hollywood film studios.

Broadcast standards such as ATSC, ARIB and DVB are all in various states of adopting, recommending and requiring ISAN content IDs as well as Apple iTunes, CableLabs VoD, and other broadcast industry associations.

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7. Which industries will benefit?

An ISAN enables commerce for several industries including feature films, digital cinema, program guide services, Internet content and gaming. The following sectors have adopted ISAN:

  • Films and TV Industry
  • Broadcast network engineers
  • Broadcast ratings agencies
  • Software and Multimedia developer
  • Music agencies

Specific examples include

    • Film industry
      • in the USA with all the US major studios
      • the MPAA, in France, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Germany and other countries
      • 78 members of Screenrights already have works which have been allocated an ISAN
    • Post-production houses:
      • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder solution used for major video, interactive, multimedia and advertising content
      • ISAN is now natively supported by the Windows Media platform under Vista
    • Games industry, recently announced in Las Vegas
    • Some of the TV productions like TV series, TV documentaries.
    • European broadcasters in Spain and France supporting ISAN
    • Integration of ISAN in some Digital Rights Management, watermarking technologies
    • Integration of ISAN in some TV listing companies such as Tribune, Gemstar
    • Integration of ISAN in some broadcaster’s software suite like Harris and Adobe

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8. What are the main benefits of using ISAN?

The advantages of using the ISAN system are:

  • Unique ID: a unique international identifier of each audiovisual work is linked to its descriptive information (metadata), & hosted in a central repository managed by ISAN International.
  • Identifier: Each work (including all its components and versions) has one unique ISAN, which is a permanent identifier and is never reused or changed.
  • Version Identifier: Each version of an work can have a different unique ISAN and cannot be used to identify any other version of that or any other work.
  • Representative of the Industry: ISAN has been defined by the audiovisual industry.
  • Availability: ISAN and its related descriptive information are accessible through the Internet at all times by users (both registrants and readers).
  • Reliability: ISAN and its related descriptive information are hosted in secure and highly available data centers.
  • Data Integrity: Each work has one unique ISAN. Each ISAN identifies only one work. ISAN is a permanent identifier for a work and is never reused.
  • Asset Management: ISAN helps registrants and other users of ISAN with efficient inventory management, particularly in a digital environment.
  • Usage Reporting: By requiring an ISAN to be listed in broadcast logs via various international broadcasting standards, tracking of uses if facilitated.
  • Collection Management: When filing for administration through collection management, works identification and rights registration is more efficient, enabling quicker, more reliable and efficient distributions by collection societies.
  • Database Interoperability: ISAN facilitates electronic information exchanges between different commercial and consumer focused database systems such as a studios financial system, or a theater chains digital cinema distribution tracking database.
  • Digital Merchandizing Potential: ISAN can be used in the audiovisual e-commerce environment to enable, promote and cross-promote digital merchandizing and related audiovisual marketing and commerce.


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9. Who are the Primary Users of ISAN?

The initial major users include producer or publishers for library management, optical media identification and digital cinema distribution projects.

Other users include digital broadcast, cable, and many other value chain participants, including:

  • Those interested in the licensing of audiovisual works and in the management of permissions and payments for use of these works such as the stakeholders/rights- holders including (but not limited to) producers, writers, directors, actors, developers, and composers
  • Parties involved in the administration of rights for audiovisual works, such as collecting societies to assist in the allocation of royalties
  • Those releasing or exhibiting different versions of works to an audience, such as television broadcasters; distributors and publishers
  • Those who manage databases about audiovisual works and/or rely on electronic exchange of data, such as television listing services
  • Those who track and report on the use of versions of audiovisual works such as audience measurement and ratings companies
  • Those managing the cataloguing and/or preservation of collections of audiovisual works, such as archivists
  • Organizations involved with engineering and encoding standards for the television, motion picture and broadcasting industries
  • Those who need to exchange accurate data about specific versions of audiovisual works such as parties involved in anti-piracy measures, customs officials and Interpol.

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10. How much does an ISAN cost, including any ongoing costs?

Please refer to the rate card on the downloads page

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11. Will the details provided for my ISAN be made publicly available?

In order to obtain an ISAN, you will need to supply the following mandatory information about the work:

  • Title of the work
  • Original language(s) of the work
  • Alternate title(s) in the original language
  • Title(s) of other language version(s) (optional)
  • Year of reference that appears in the work, where applicable
  • Year of first publication or communication to the public (optional)
  • Main producer (optional)
  • Main production company (optional)
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12. How can I display my ISAN? What format is the artwork?

Where a work is in a digital form (eg DVD), the ISAN should be embedded into the masters of the work and transferred to any copies made from those masters. The MPEG standards provide a space for the ISAN identifier in the MPEG format.

Where a work is in analogue form (eg celluloid film), the ISAN should be securely affixed to the master and any archival copies. For new works, this could involve printing the ISAN on the master negative or on an interpositive.

For works that already exist, the work and its ISAN should be securely linked in some form of permanent record, archive or inventory. The ISAN should also be recorded on the container of the master version whenever possible. Producer’s laboratory access letters to distributors should specify the ISAN insertion requirements for commercial prints produced from any master material.

The ISAN should also be included as a data element in any systems used to manage and process information about audio visual works. It should also be included in documentation and contracts concerning the work.

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13. Will the details provided for my ISAN be made publicly available?

The ISAN International Agency (ISAN-IA) stores the ISAN and descriptive information about each work in a central repository. There are two kinds of readers who can access this information – Public Readers and Registered Readers.

Anyone seeking ISAN(s) from original titles of registered Works can query the ISAN System from the ISAN website www.isan.org free of charge as a Public Reader.

A Public Reader can make two types of queries:
  • By querying an ISAN, the system responds with the original title.
  • By querying an original title the system responds with the ISAN(s) (if issued), with a limit of five (5) results.

A Registered reader is any legal entity or individual registered as such at an ISAN Registration Agency. To become a reader, an applicant must apply to an ISAN Registration Agency first – there is not requirement in terms of audiovisual industry involvement.

Registered Readers have to pay usage fees to query the system.

A registered reader can make two kinds of queries:

  • providing an ISAN the Reader accesses descriptive information about the work.
  • By providing some or all of the descriptive information, the Reader is offered the corresponding ISAN for the work concerned. If insufficient information is provided or if the number of potential corresponding works is too high, the Reader is asked to refine their query.

A reader can query on-line through the website of its Registration Agency. For a mass query process, a request can be submitted to the Registration Agency who will reply in an XML format.

Any XML formats will be available to registered Readers through their Registration Agency.

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14. How does the episode numbering work?

Each episode within a series or other serial work should have its own ISAN, as no single ISAN will be assigned to cover a series in its entirety.

When registering the first episode of a serial, the title for the serial must be provided. A first reference episode is created with all the descriptive information.

Each time a registrant wants to add a new episode in the serial, they select the title of the serial for which all descriptive information will be initialised with the values of the most recently registered episode. This eases the registration process as only differences need to be provided; e.g. title of the episode, new actors, etc.

When a new episode is registered for an ISAN, it is only checked against duplicates in the serial itself.

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15. Screenrights has some of my data, how can I get a list?

You can contact Member Services at Screenrights for this information. Email your request to memberservices@screenrights.org


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16. Is it compulsory?

No. The ISAN is a voluntary numbering system. There is no requirement to adopt or use an ISAN for works. However, as it is an efficient and precise industry-driven numbering system that enables the identification of audiovisual works and related versions, and is intended as a tool to facilitate business, thereby adopting an ISAN is a logical business decision.

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17.How does the ISAN affect copyright registration?

The ISAN is not related in any way to copyright. It is an identification number without any legal implication or meaning. It has no intrinsic value as prima facie evidence regarding the copyright status or ownership of a work.

Even though the ISAN may be used by collecting societies as a tool to precisely distinguish each work in their databases, the ISAN itself does not identify rights owners.

The scope of the ISAN standard clearly states:     "The issuance of an ISAN shall in no way be related to any process of copyright registration, nor shall the issuance of an ISAN provide evidence of the ownership of rights in a work."

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18. How does Ad-ID and ISAN work together?
 
An ISAN will not be issued for any non audio visual elements associated with an audio visual work. For example, an ISAN would be given to a feature film but not to its soundtrack, screenplay, or any single images or still photographs from the film.

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19. How does Ad-ID and ISAN work together?

The ISAN was developed as an International Standard under the auspices of  "ISO/TC 46/SC 9":

  • ISO is the International Organization for Standardisation, based in Geneva
  • TC 46 is ISO's Technical Committee (TC) for information and documentation standards
  • SC 9 is the TC 46 Subcommittee (SC) that develops and maintains ISO standards on the identification and description of information objects.

In May 1997, ISO/TC 46 Subcommittee 9 established a Working Group (WG 1) to develop the ISAN project. The project was under the joint administration of:

  • AGICOA: Association de Gestion Internationale Collective des Oeuvres Audiovisuelles (International Association for the Collective Management of Works)
  • FIAPF: Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films (International Federation of Film Producers' Associations)
  • CISAC: Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Auteurs et de Compositeurs (International Confederation of Authors' and Composers' Societies).

Participants from several countries and international associations were members of the ISAN Working Group and active contributors to the development of the ISAN project.

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20. How does Ad-ID and ISAN work together?

ISAN International Agency or ISAN-IA (pronounced E-SAN-ya) is responsible for promoting ISAN worldwide, for appointing Registration Agencies, and for running and managing the ISAN system where ISANs as well as related metadata are stored in a centralized repository.

ISAN is the ISO standard.   ISAN-IA is the ISAN Registration Authority mandated by ISO, founded in 2003 as a Swiss Non-profit organization chartered to implement the standard worldwide.

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21. How does Ad-ID and ISAN work together?

An advertising work may have both an Ad-ID (Advertising Digital Identifier) and an ISAN. Please see Microsoft's white paper, which includes a table comparison between Ad-ID and ISAN.

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