ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Statuettes, Stars and Standards: ISAN to Give Films and Other Audiovisual Works Distinction

New York, Feb 11, 2003

With today’s announcement of Academy Award nominations, the countdown to the March 23rd broadcast of the Oscar ceremony has begun. While editors, screenwriters and directors hope that a coveted gold statuette will set their film apart, the international standards community has delivered a standard that could give every film its own distinctive “fingerprint.” 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.

Published in September 2002, ISO 15706 creates an International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN) to identify an audiovisual work throughout its life. In terms of the ISAN standard, an "audiovisual work" includes: motion pictures (e.g. feature films) and short films; trailers (i.e. previews); 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); composite and multimedia works if they contain a significant audiovisual component.

By uniquely distinguishing one audiovisual work from all other audiovisual works, an ISAN precludes confusion about the specific work being referenced. A title of one film, for example, can be very similar to another, or might be modified slightly through foreign distribution and translation into other languages. 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.

As an identifier, the ISAN can be used for various purposes, including assisting allocation of royalties, tracking the use of audiovisual works, information retrieval and for anti-piracy purposes, such as verifying title registrations. However, the ISAN is a voluntary numbering system without any legal implication or meaning and does not itself 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."

The International ISAN Agency and network of ISAN registration agencies that will administer the ISAN system should be in place in early 2003. As soon as the first registration agencies are established, the ISAN will be ready for implementation by interested parties within the audiovisual community.

For more information on ISO 15706, visit the ISO TC46/SC 9 Web site.

See related story: Napster Beware: New ISO Standard May Aid in Tracking Shared Music

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