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Frequently-asked questions

What is ISNI?
The International Standard Name Identifier is an ISO standard implemented as a global system for identifying public identities that correspond to an individual, legal entity or fictional character.

What is a public identity?
A public identity is the name by which any of the above is known publicly.

What is the scope of ISNI?

ISNI is a standard that unequivocally identifies all identities related with the chain of creation, production, management and distribution of intellectual and artistic content. It identifies the public identities of contributors such as authors, composers, cartographers, performers, academic and scientific authors, researchers and editors.

Can I access the complete information of any identity?
ISNI is designed to unequivocally identity public identities and therefore only contains the strict minimum amount of information necessary for that identity. It is not designed to provide complete information; however, it may provide links to external sources where such information exists. Accordingly, this identifier serves to link the same identity across different web-based databases.

Is the ISNI an official international standard?

Yes, the ISNI is an ISO standard (International Standard Organization) referred to as ISO 27729.

Who uses ISNI?
ISNI is used by anyone involved in the digital or physical media/content supply chain, such as libraries, publishers, music or film producers, bibliographic services, copyright management organisations, search engines, online stores, data aggregators, etc.

What is the structure and syntax of an ISNI?

An ISNI comprises 16 digits, the last character being a check character. The check character may either be a number or the character ‘X’. There are a hundred billion possible combinations. 
Example: ISNI 0000 0001 2103 2683
What happens if there are alternative spellings for the same public identity?
William Shakespear and William Shakespeare are alternative spellings for the same public identity and therefore represent a single identity with a single ISNI. The same applies to alternative spellings, alternative presentations, character set variants, transliteration variants and linguistic variants.

Examples:
• e.e. cummings and E. E. Cummings, or Oxford University Press and OUP are alternative presentations of the same identity.
• Günter Graß, Gunter Grass and Guenter Graß are character set variants of the same identity.
• Ciaikovsky, Pjotr Iljc and Пётр Ильич Чайковский are transliteration variants of the same identity.
• Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Peter Tchaikovsky are linguistic variants of the same identity.

Is it possible to assign multiple ISNIs to the same contributor?
Yes, it is. The same contributor may have multiple public identities. Such is the case for authors who use pseudonyms for signing their creations. Each identity name corresponding to a contributor will have a unique ISNI. 
Example: Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine are two different identity names from one contributor. Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine will be assigned different ISNIs.

Is it possible to have links between multiple public identities?
If the contributor authorises it, two or more ISNIs can be linked to indicate a relationship, such as in the case of a pseudonym. 
Example: The ISNI metadata set for Ruth Rendell include the following metadata elements. “ISNI 0000 0001 2149 1740 for the pseudonym ISNI 0000 0003 6864 7620”, the latter being the ISNI for Barbara Vine.

Can I keep my proprietary contributor identification system? 
The ISNI is designed as a “bridge” identifier, a sort of open layer above the proprietary contributor identification system. This allows different industry parties to exchange information relative to contributors without having to reveal confidential information. Accordingly, the ISNI only has the minimum metadata set necessary for differentiating two identities. All relevant information resides in the proprietary database protected by conditional access.

Who administers the ISNI system?
The Registration Authority for this standard is the ISNI International Agency. The ISNI International Agency (ISNI-IA) is an international, non-profit organisation. The Registration Authority, designed by ISO, is entrusted with creating and maintaining the ISNI reference database. The initial database is created using the databases of its members, collecting all types of repertoires. The Registration Authority enriches and amplifies the database and is the sole proprietor of the ISNI metadata. It is also in charge of the general administration and management of the ISNI standard. The Registration Authority does not provide direct services to its users; instead, it systematically channels potential users through a Registration Agency. How do I obtain an ISNI? Most users access the ISNI database through Registration Agencies, like the Biblioteca Nacional de España. The complete list of Registration Agencies is published on the ISNI website.

How do Registration Agencies like the Biblioteca Nacional de España work?
Registration Agencies have unlimited read-only access to the complete ISNI database. Likewise, they are the only entities authorised to issue ISNI identifiers. All requests from users to obtain an ISNI are channelled though a Registration Agency.

How do I obtain an ISNI?
By writing to the address isni@bne.es


Who can request an ISNI at the BNE?
Biblioteca Nacional de España processes requests for ISNI numbers for authors or entities that meet at least one of these two conditions:

  • Authors or entities in Spain or working in Spain
  • Authors or entities that are in the BNE catalogue.


What is required to obtain an ISNI?

Public identities are identified by the following metadata elements:
• Name of the public identity
• Date and place of birth and/or death (or registration and dissolution for legal entities)
• Categories and roles as defined by the Registration Authority. The categories define the repertoire (music, audio-visual, text, etc.) and the roles (author, performer, editor, illustrator, etc.)
• Reference title of a creative work
• A URI (or URL) that provides a link for more information about the identity.

Why does my ISNI have an ‘X’? Does it indicate an error?
Your ISNI is correct and does not indicate an error. The last digit of an ISNI identifier is a check digit that serves to verify that the number is correct (the length is correct, and the numbers are in the correct sequence). The check digit algorithm can be from zero (0) to ten (10). Since the check digit can only contain one character, ‘10’ is represented with an ‘X’. Check digit algorithms are widely used in IT applications.

Can I request that information be added to or removed from my record?
Yes, you may request that information be added or removed by writing to isni@bne.es Anyone can add information to an ISNI record. The request will be revised by the ISNI Quality Team. If you are the subject of an ISNI record, you can request that some of your record’s data be removed, such as your birth date. ISNI may also place a field in the record to protect it from future updates by its sources. In the event of incorrect data, ISNI will request that its sources make the appropriate corrections. Upon request, ISNI will also notify its sources of the deletion of data that, although correct, is private. Nevertheless, it cannot guarantee future actions.