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ISMN Newsletter No10

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7. ISMN and other Numbering Systems


Progress Report on Standardization of ISO/Technical Committee 46, «Information and documentation»

Sub-committee 9 «Presentation, identification and description of documents» within TC 46 is responsible for the standardization of numbering systems, as ISBN, ISSN, ISMN.
During the last years the following New Work Items on numbering systems were developed and are now almost finished:
ISO/DIS 15706 International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN)
(Draft International Standard, Voting terminates on: 2000-05-23)

An ISAN identifies an audiovisual work throughout its life, and is intended for implementation and/or use for various purposes such as:

  • to assist allocation of royalties among rightholders
  • to track use of audiovisual works and
  • for anti-piracy purposes such as verifying title registrations.

An ISAN consists of 16 digits, divided into two elements:
the audiovisual work identifier (15 digits) and one (1) check digit.

The audiovisual work identifier will be allocated by a regional ISAN agency from the central register of the ISAN system.


ISO/DIS 15707 International Standard Work Code (ISWC)
(Draft International Standard, Voting terminates on 2000-06-07)

The ISWC system was developed by the member societies of the Confédération internationale de sociétiés d'auteurs et de compositeurs (CISAC). - International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers.

The ISWC provides an efficient means of uniquely identifying a musical work to be distinguished from another within computer databases and related documentation and for the purposes of collecting societies involved in the administration of rights to such works.

The ISWC is not used to identify manifestations of or objects related to a music work. Such manifestations and objects are the subject of separate identification systems such as for

  • sound recordings - International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) - ISO 3901
  • printed music - International Standard Music Numer (ISMN) - ISO 10957
  • audiovisual works - International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN) - ISO 15706

An ISWC consists of a prefix element (1 character), a work identifier (9 digits) and a (1 ) check digit.

When an ISWC is written or printed the letters ISWC precede it. For ease of reading only, hyphens and dots may be used as separators.

The first element of an ISWC for musical work shall be the letter ‹T› which distinguishes the type of intellectual property being identified as a musical work.

If necessary another alphanumeric character can be designated in order to expand the numbering capacity and/or indicate the beginning of a new phase in the assignment of ISWC to musical works.


Revision of ISO 3901: 1986 International Standard Recording Code (ISRC)
(ISO/DIS Draft International Standard, Voting terminates on 2000-07-24)

The revision was proposed by the ISO 3901 Registration Authority (IFPI - International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) for the following reasons:

  • to expand the coding capacity of the ISRC from its limit of 3,699 recordings per producer per year which is insufficient for the industry's needs. This expansion is accomplished by deleting the recording item code element and expanding the recording code element to 5 digits
  • to make the ISRC system easier to administer and implement by the recording industry, which is the primary user group for this standard
  • to clarify the specifications of some sections of the standard.

An ISRC consists of 12 characters and is alphanumeric, using the Arabic numerals 0 to 9 and letters of the Roman alphabet. It is divided into four elements in the following order:

Country code, 2 letters

Registrant code, identifies the producer, combination of 3 alphabetic and numeric characters

Year of reference element, year in which the ISRC was allocated, 2 characters

Designation code, identifies each recording or part of a larger recorded work used as a separate unit, 5 digits assigned by the producer.


Edith Lechner
Secretary of ISO/TC 46



Pierre Godefroy reported that the ISSN network was continuously growing. There were 68 member countries. The latest member was the Seychelles. The ISSN register contained nearly 1 million records with an annual addition of 55,000 new records.
In 1999 they started numbering electronic publications. So far, 5,000 were identified and registered, and the number was growing.
Traditionally, ISSN International assigned numbers for non-member countries. At publishers' request they decided to try harder to make these countries members.
The ISSN network became more involved in the concept of «continuing» publications. This term was the result of harmonization activities by the ISBDS community for the cataloguing of serial publications, AACR and ISSN. A new cataloguing concept was needed for those new electronic objects.

ISSN International's major new initiative was the URN project. Due to major changes in the publishing world the ISSN was needed also to facilitate access to publications available on the Internet. The URN as a permanent name, assigned to electronic objects, should be linked to a URL the validity of which would be guaranteed by a resolution service. The Conference of European National Libraries decided on adopting a scheme developed by Nordic national libraries in order to cope with the administration and legal deposit of electronic publications. ISSN International tested the feasibility, and at the general assembly in Paris this coming May a new strategic plan for the coming years would be presented.
As Dr. Walravens added, while the DOI system did not proceed quickly, the URN application made good progress and the metadata administration was well designed. The URN was basically free and could be used for all kinds of publications whereas DOI was more expensive and would be mainly used for commercial items.

Antonín Jerábek asked Mr. Godefroy about assigning ISSNs to databases. He answered that the network had decided that ISSN could be assigned on an experimental basis but not on a major scale. The reason was that by trading serial publications on the Internet these might undergo changes in presentation and look more like databases.



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