The ISAN (International Standard Audiovisual Number) is a voluntary numbering system for the identification of audiovisual works. It provides a unique, internationally recognized and permanent reference number for each audiovisual work registered in the ISAN system.
An ISAN uniquely distinguishes one audiovisual work from all other audiovisual works. Other methods of identifying audiovisual 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.
Because each ISAN is a unique number that is permanently assigned to an audiovisual work, it can identify that work across national boundaries and language barriers.
As a unique identifier, the ISAN is useful in a wide range of computerized applications, particularly those which involve databases or the exchange of information about audiovisual works. Some of its possible applications are:
to assist collecting societies in the management of rights;
to reduce unauthorized use of protected content.
The issuance of an ISAN is in no way related to any process of copyright registration, nor does the issuance of an ISAN provide evidence of the ownership of rights in an audiovisual work.
An ISAN may be applied to all types of audiovisual works including motion pictures and short films, trailers, video games, productions for television or other means of delivery, including individual episodes of television series; industrial, educational and training films; commercials; broadcasts and recordings of live events (such as sports events and newscasts); and composite and multimedia works if they contain a significant audiovisual component.
The ISAN code itself is a "dumb" number, meaning that it does not include any signifying elements. Its purpose is to uniquely identify the work, and always relates and provides descriptive information about the audiovisual content.
The ISAN identifies works, not publications (unlike the ISBN for books) nor right holders. The ISAN remains the same for an audiovisual work regardless of the various formats in which the work is distributed (e.g. DVD, video recording) or its use.
ISAN: how to get it?
Getting an ISAN is a simple procedure, you simply need to complete the following steps:
The entity or person to whom an ISAN is allocated should have the capacity to permanently attach or link that ISAN to the specific audiovisual work that it identifies
The ISAN is the unique reference number for an audiovisual work. As such it should be included as a data element in any systems used to manage and process information about audiovisual works. Collecting societies, for example, will use the ISAN when they exchange and process information about the use of audiovisual works.
For audiovisual works in digital form (e.g. DVD), the ISAN should be embedded into the appropriate masters of the work and transferred to any subsequent copies made from those masters. The MPEG standards provide a space for the ISAN identifier in the MPEG format.
For audiovisual works in analogue form (e.g. celluloid film), the ISAN should be securely affixed to the master and any other archival copies. For new works, that could involve printing the ISAN on the master negative or on an interpositive. For works already in existence, that would involve securely linking the work and its ISAN in some form of permanent record, archive or inventory. It could also involve physically recording the ISAN on the container of the master version, whenever possible.
The ISAN should also be included in the documentation, packaging and relevant contracts and agreements for an audiovisual work.
Producer's laboratory access letters to distributors should specify the ISAN insertion requirements for commercial prints produced from the lab's internegative or other master material.
ISAN: official ISO standard
ISAN is ordered by ISO Standard, 15706-1&2.
The ISAN Standard was prepared within ISO Technical Committee (TC) 46, Subcommittee (SC) 9 which is responsible for ISO International Standards for the identification and description of information resources.
ISO spent over seven years developing this standard with contributions and feedback from dozens of media companies, producers, authors and collecting societies, as well as broadcast standards organizations. The ISAN ISO Standard is the fruit of a consensus of the Audiovisual Industry: ISAN has been made by and for the Audiovisual Industry.
In 2002, the first International Standard that forms the basis of the ISAN system was published as ISO 15706, Information and documentation -- International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN). Afterwards, in order to adapt ISAN to the different needs of the distribution audiovisual chain, in 2006, the ISAN Standard has been extended to support version identification with ISO 15706-2.
Both parts of the standard are available for purchase , in separate English and French editions, from the ISO web site