International Standard Name Identifier

The International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) is an identifier for uniquely identifying the public identities of contributors to media content such as books, television programmes, and newspaper articles. Such an identifier consists of 16 digits. It can optionally be displayed as divided into four blocks.

International Standard Name Identifier
IntroducedMarch 15, 2012 (2012-03-15)
No. of digits16
Check digitMOD 11-2

ISNI can be used to disambiguate names that might otherwise be confused, and links the data about names that are collected and used in all sectors of the media industries.

It was developed under the auspices of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as Draft International Standard 27729; the valid standard was published on 15 March 2012. The ISO technical committee 46, subcommittee 9 (TC 46/SC 9) is responsible for the development of the standard.

ISNI format

The FAQ of the websites states "An ISNI is made up of 16 digits, the last character being a check character."[1]

Format without space

Format with space

In display it is frequently shown with spaces.

Uses of an ISNI

The ISNI allows a single identity (such as an author's pseudonym or the imprint used by a publisher) to be identified using a unique number. This unique number can then be linked to any of the numerous other identifiers that are used across the media industries to identify names and other forms of identity.

An example of the use of such a number is the identification of a musical performer who is also a writer both of music and of poems. Where he or she might currently be identified in many different databases using numerous private and public identification systems, under the ISNI system, he or she would have a single linking ISNI record. The many different databases could then exchange data about that particular identity without resorting to messy methods such as comparing text strings. An often quoted example in the English language world is the difficulty faced when identifying 'John Smith' in a database. While there may be many records for 'John Smith', it is not always clear which record refers to the specific 'John Smith' that is required.

If an author has published under several different names or pseudonyms, each such name will receive its own ISNI.

ISNI can be used by libraries and archives when sharing catalogue information; for more precise searching for information online and in databases, and it can aid the management of rights across national borders and in the digital environment.


ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) identifiers consist of a reserved block of ISNI identifiers for scholarly researchers[5] and administered by a separate organisation.[5] Individual researchers can create and claim their own ORCID identifier.[6] The two organisations coordinate their efforts.[5][6]

Organisations involved in the management

ISNI Registration Authority

According to ISO the Registration Authority for ISO 27729:2012 is the "ISNI International Agency".[7] It is located in London (c/o EDItEUR)[8]

It is incorporated under the Companies Act 2006 as a private company limited by guarantee.[9]

The 'International Agency' is commonly known as the ISNI-IA.[10][11]

This UK registered, not-for-profit company has been founded by a consortium of organisations consisting of the Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Auteurs et Compositeurs (CISAC), the Conference of European National Librarians (CENL), the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO), the International Performers Database Association (IPDA), the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and ProQuest. It is managed by directors nominated from these organisations and, in the case of CENL, by representatives of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library.

ISNI Registration Agencies

A registration agency provides the interface between ISNI applicants and the ISNI Assignment Agency.[12]

List of Registration Agencies in order as on ISNI-IA website
Name (as on ISNI-IA website)SinceRelation
Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE)Spain
BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France)2014[13]France
Bibliothèque nationale de LuxembourgLuxembourg
British LibraryUK
BTLF (Société de gestion de la Banque de Titres de Langue Française) France
Casalini LibriItaly
China Knowledge Centre for Engineering Sciences and Technology (CKCEST)China
Consolidated IndependentUnited Kingdom
Identification Agency (IDA)Russia
Koninklijke BibliotheekNetherlands
Kültür ve Turizm BakanliğiTurkey
National Assembly Library of KoreaSouth Korea
National Library of KoreaSouth Korea
National Library of PolandPoland
Numerical GurusUnited States
Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC)
Ringgoldorganisations, international
Rakuten KoboCanada
Sound Exchange Inc.United States
SoundwaysUnited States

ISNI Members

ISNI members (ISNI-IA Members[15]) as of 2018-07-11:[15]

  • ABES (French Bibliographic Agency for Higher Education)
  • Brill Publishers
  • CEDRO (Centro Español de Derechos Reprográficos)
  • CDR (Centrale Discotheek Rotterdam)
  • Copyrus
  • FCCN
  • French National Archives (Archives nationales de France)
  • Harvard University
  • Iconoclaste
  • Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (ICLA)
  • ISSN International Centre
  • La Trobe University
  • Library of Congress
  • MacOdrum Library, Carleton University
  • National Library of Finland
  • National Library of New Zealand
  • National Library of Norway
  • National Library of Sweden (Kungliga Biblioteket)
  • Publishers' Licensing Services
  • UNSW Library

ISNI assignment

ISNI-IA uses an assignment system comprising a user interface, data-schema, disambiguation algorithms, and database that meets the requirements of the ISO standard, while also using existing technology where possible. The system is based primarily on the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) service, which has been developed by OCLC for use in the aggregation of library catalogues.

Access to the assignment system and database, and to the numbers that are generated as the output of the process, are controlled by independent bodies known as 'registration agencies'. These registration agencies deal directly with customers, ensuring that data is provided in appropriate formats and recompensing the ISNI-IA for the cost of maintaining the assignment system. Registration agencies are appointed by ISNI-IA but will be managed and funded independently.

ISNI coverage

  • As of 5 August 2017 ISNI holds public records of over 9.41 million identities, including 8.757 million individuals (of which 2.606 million are researchers) and 654,074 organisations.[16]
  • As of 19 April 2018 9.86 million identities, including 9.15 million individuals (of which 2.86 million are researchers) and 714,401 organisations.[16]
  • As of 11 July 2018 10 million identities, including: 9.28 million individuals (of which 2.87 million are researchers) 717,204 organisations.[16]
  • As of 13 August 2018 10 million identities, including: 9.32 million individuals (of which 2.87 million are researchers) 717,795 organisations.[16]
  • As of 17 October 2018 10 million identities, including: 9.39 million individuals (of which 2.87 million are researchers) 719,010 organisations.[16]
  • As of 5 December 2018 10 million identities, including: 9.4 million individuals (of which 2.88 million are researchers) 826,810 organisations.[16]
  • As of 11 March 2019 over 10 million identities, including: 9.59 million individuals (of which 2.88 million are researchers) 864,999 organisations.[16]
  • As of 21 June 2019 over 10.5 million identities, including: 9.6 million individuals (of which 2.88 million are researchers) 876,017 organisations.[16]
  • As of 27 November 2019 over 10.92 million identities, including: 10.01 million individuals (of which 2.89 million are researchers) 908,299 organisations.[16]
  • As of 13 February 2020 over 11.02 million identities, including: 10.11 million individuals (of which 2.91 million are researchers) 912,991 organisations.[16]

In 2018, YouTube became an ISNI registry, and announced its intention to begin creating ISNI IDs for the musicians whose videos it features.[17] ISNI anticipates the number of ISNI IDs "going up by perhaps 3-5 million over the next couple of years" as a result.[18]

See also

  • Authority control
  • Digital Author Identification (DAI)
  • Digital object identifier (DOI)
  • International Standard Text Code (ISTC)
  • ResearcherID
  • Ringgold identifier


  1. "ISNI - FAQ". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  2. Office, Library of Congress Network Development and MARC Standards. "Encoding the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) in the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  3. "ISNI 000000012281955X Ai-en-ssu-tan (1879-1955)". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  5. "What is the relationship between ISNI and ORCID?". About ORCID. ORCID. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  6. "ISNI and ORCID". ISNI. Archived from the original on 4 March 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  7. "Maintenance agencies and registration authorities". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  8. "ISNI International Agency - ISNI International Agency". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  10. "ISNI". Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  11. "About the ISNI International Agency". Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  12. "Registration Agencies". ISNI. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  13. "BnF: First National Library In the World to Become an ISNI Registration Agency". ISNI. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  14. "YouTube Adopts ISNI ID for Artists & Songwriters". ISNI. 2018-01-22. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  15. "Members". ISNI. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  16. "ISNI". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  17. "YouTube Adopts ISNI ID for Artists & Songwriters". ISNI. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  18. "Transcript: YouTube Knows Who You Are". Beyond the Book. 18 March 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2018.

Further reading

  • Karen Smith-Yoshimura, Janifer Gatenby, Grace Agnew, Christopher Brown, Kate Byrne, Matt Carruthers, Peter Fletcher, Stephen Hearn, Xiaoli Li, Marina Muilwijk, Chew Chiat Naun, John Riemer, Roderick Sadler, Jing Wang, Glen Wiley, and Kayla Willey. 2016. "Addressing the Challenges with Organizational Identifiers and ISNI." Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research.
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