Published by ISO (International Organization for Standardization), ISO 15706, Information and documentation - International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN), provides a system for assigning a unique international identification code not only to films, but to every piece of audiovisual work, from commercials to newscasts to episodes of individual television series. The use of the code is expected to assist in the allocation of royalties, information retrieval and anti-piracy purposes as well as to help track the use of the audiovisual work throughout its life.

ISO 15706 was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 46, Information and documentation, subcommittee SC 9, Identification and description, working group WG 1, in collaboration with the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), the Association of International Collective Management of Audiovisual Works (AGICOA), and the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC).

According to André Chaubeau, Convenor of the working group and Managing Director of AGICOA, ISO 15706 will significantly improve the administration of audiovisual works on a worldwide basis. "The ISAN is an industry-driven numbering system. It is a tool to facilitate business by the industry for the industry. The efficiency and precision that the ISAN provides for identifying audiovisual works makes the use of ISAN a good business decision," he said.

The new standard will provide a unique, permanent and internationally recognized reference number for the identification of every audiovisual work, regardless of the format in which the work is distributed (e.g. DVD, video recording) or the use to which it is put to. It specifies a means of uniquely identifying an audiovisual work, in the same way that an ISBN number is a unique identifier for books and ISSN for magazines.

An ISAN number may be applied to all types of audiovisual works including motion pictures and short films, trailers, 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.

"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," said Jane Thacker, Secretary of ISO/TC 46/SC 9. "For example, one title can be very similar to another. Titles can 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 will be useful in a wide range of computerized applications, particularly those which involve databases or the exchange of information about audiovisual works."

An ISAN number is made up of 16 hexadecimal digits divided into two segments: a 12-digit root segment followed by a 4-digit segment for the identification of episodes or parts when applicable. This number should be included in all documentation, advertising and packaging of the audiovisual work.

In accordance with ISO 15706, the ISAN International Agency (ISANIA), which will be headed by FIAPF, AGICOA, and CISAC, has the responsibility for the overall ISAN system maintenance and administration. The ISAN International Agency will appoint and oversee the work of, regional and national ISAN agencies which will be authorized to receive and process applications for ISAN and allocate the actual ISAN numbers to the audiovisual works.

More information on ISO 15706, Information and documentation - International Standard Audiovisual Work Code (ISAN), including the ISAN International Agency can be found on the ISO/TC 46/SC 9 Web site.