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Global standards group asks "What's in a name?"

More than 45 million people "like" Stefani Germanotta's Facebook page and a similar number count themselves as fans of the internationally renowned author/singer/songwriter Roosevelt Gook. While instantly recognizable under their stage identities, Lady Gaga and Bob Dylan are far more difficult to trace through their real names (or less famous pseudonyms in Dylan's case). And performers aren’t the only ones changing names: authors often write under multiple names, making it difficult for readers to find their other works. Libraries, too, invest enormous efforts in disambiguating creators and sorting their works. Equally important, especially to the creators themselves, is the ability for organizations administering rights to correctly identify who gets what royalty.

Now, a cultural industry standards group has created a system that will connect the right information with the right person — no matter which name is being used — the same way books with similar or even identical titles (think Atlas of the World) move from publisher through to distribution and ultimately to the buyer with precision — delivering the exact title, author and format.

The International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) Agency — founded by a worldwide group of organizations that serve researchers — has crafted an ISO standard that neatly connects appropriate information with the appropriate public identity, whether it's Albert Einstein, John Lennon or Kermit the Frog. With inspiration from International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), ISNIs create a unique 16-digit code for individuals or characters that's shared across all the information related to the cultural and scholarly contents associated with them. The ISNI system was launched this month with an initial database of more than a million names, created by consolidating data from VIAF (the Virtual International Authority File maintained by 19 major world libraries) and data from 15 other groups, including rights management organizations, professional societies, government grant organizations and the supply trade.

"The ISNI will make the job of identifying rightsholders quicker and cheaper," said Olav Stokkmo, CEO of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) — a founding partner in the ISNI agency. "With less duplication of work, collective management organizations and libraries will find it easier to work together to promote access and reward creators."

"It's a practical solution that promises to streamline and improve the accuracy of virtually any biographical research," said Beat Barblan, Director of Identifier Services at Bowker. Bowker, an affiliated business of ProQuest — a founding partner in the ISNI agency — is the official U.S. ISBN assignment agency and its experience in tracking media has made it an integral part of the new ISNI International Agency.

ISNI's simplicity is powered by worldwide cooperation among information-laden organizations. The process works like this: Individuals, their agents, or in the case of fictional characters, their creators can apply for a unique number through a registered ISNI agency. The agency then shares the number across the global digital information industry, enabling research organizations to apply it to content by or about the individual held in their databases. Users tapping into any of the organizations that use ISNIs will need only a name and just enough background data to zero in on the correct identity. Then, the ISNI will take over, connecting all the appropriate public information. Users can also start with an ISNI and find the identity and data that matches it.

ISNI's free enquiry interface is available at To learn more visit

About the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI)
The International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) is an ISO Standard (ISO 27729) whose scope is the identification of public Identities across multiple fields of creative activities. ISNI streamlines content distribution chains, disambiguating natural, legal and fictional parties that might otherwise be confused.

ISNI is a creation of the ISNI International Agency (ISNI-IA) founded by CISAC, IFRRO, IPDA, ProQuest, OCLC and the Conference of European National Librarians (represented by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the British Library). The founder members include consortia representing more than 26,000 major world libraries, 300 rights management societies and research information giants OCLC and ProQuest, along with its business unit Bowker, and have already begun integrating the numeric code into their search systems and now they’re ready to take the cause to a larger audience by getting researchers involved.

More information about the Founding members of the ISNI International Agency

The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) is one of the largest research and public libraries in the world collecting and conserving the national heritage entrusted to its care, in whatever form, for the use of all researchers, students and professionals.

Today its heritage collections encompass all areas of culture and knowledge in a great variety of languages and illustrate the library’s encyclopaedic nature through all kinds of materials.

The BnF offers access to its digital library Gallica, which now contains over 1.6 million digitised documents: manuscripts, sound materials and music score, books, images and over 400,000 newspapers issues, in French and other languages. They cover all domains of knowledge, with a specific focus in literature and history.

Together with these collections, all in public domain, Gallica gives access to digitised documents belonging to French partner libraries as well as a set of copyrighted documents in collaboration with the French Publishers Association, some publishers and e-retailers.

The BnF is a founding member of The European Library consortium and is contributing to Europeana. It is involved in multiple European projects, such as ARROW, which aims at facilitating the access to copyrighted items in the respect of author rights.

For more information:

Contact press: Claudine Hermabessière – - +33 (0) 1 5779 4118 Information on ISNI: Anila Angjeli – - +33 (0) 1 5379 5395

The British Library

is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world-class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation. It includes: books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages.


For more information:

Contact: Ben Sanderson - - +44 (0) 1937 546 126

The Conference of European National Librarians (CENL) is a foundation under Dutch law with the aim of increasing and reinforcing the role of national libraries in Europe, in particular in respect of their responsibilities for maintaining the national cultural heritage and ensuring the accessibility of knowledge in that field.

Members of CENL are the national librarians of the member states of the Council of Europe. The conference currently consists of 49 members from 46 European countries forming the CENL Board. The conference pursues its objectives by means of annual membership meetings as well as initiatives and support of research and development activities and joint projects.

The topics which are discussed at the annual meetings and are worked on in working groups and projects were already identified at the very first meeting and evolved with the development of technology and library organisation: Harmonisation and innovation of national policy concerning libraries; implementation of new information technology in the libraries; standardisation of data structure and communication interfaces within a European network; preservation and conservation of important collections in Europe, including long-term preservation of digital objects.

CENL website:

Contact: CENL Secretary, Karin Varloot Knudsen, e-mail:; - +33 (1) 53 79 83 79

Presided over by Robin Gibb – legendary singer and songwriter of the Bee Gees – and Hervé Di Rosa – French visual artist and painter, CISAC – the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers – aims at increasing both the recognition and protection of creators’ rights worldwide. In a globalised and digital world, CISAC’s main missions are to reinforce the international network of copyright societies, to be their spokesperson in all international debates and to reassert authors’ inalienable right to live by their creative work.

With 229 authors’ societies from 121 countries as its members, CISAC indirectly represents around 3 million creators and publishers of artistic works in all genres including music, drama, literature, audiovisual, photography and the visual arts. In 2009, the royalties collected by CISAC's member societies in their respective national territories topped €7.152bn.

Founded in 1926, CISAC is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation with worldwide headquarters in France and regional offices in Chile, Hungary, Singapore and South Africa.

For more information:

Contact: Marianne Rollet - - +33 (0)1 55 62 08 57

The International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation representing the interests of collective management organisations in the field of text and image based works. These organisations are known as Reproduction Rights Organisations (RROs).

Active in every continent, around 80 RROs plus about 55 national and international publisher and author including visual creator associations are IFRRO Members and Associate Members. IFRRO’s global network of members contributes to the facilitating of the widest possible legal access to published, copyright protected literary, visual and musical works for the public. RROs administer reproduction and other relevant rights, including certain forms of digital uses, in copyright text- and image-based works on behalf of both publishers and authors including visual artists. These rights are normally referred to as reprographic rights.

RROs also play a key role in the development of cultural diversity by helping to set up the legal and administrative frameworks necessary for the growth of local publishing industries. IFRRO partners organisations such as WIPO and UNESCO to undertake copyright awareness, capacity building and training activities.

For more information:

Contact: James Boyd - - 32 2 234 62 64

The IPDA, International Performers’ Database Association, is the organisation that enables an international identification of performers. Performing artists in many countries around the world enjoy an intellectual property right to their performances just as authors do to their works. Thus, if a recording containing performing artists' performance is broadcast or communicated to the public in any other way, remuneration is due to the participating performers. Such remuneration rights are administrated collectively by performers' rights organisations. These have the task of identifying the performing artists whose recorded performances have been used in order to collect and distribute the remuneration due to performers in their own countries and abroad.

For many years these societies have lacked an international identification number linked to the performing artist to enable them to deal efficiently with performer data. Therefore, in 1997, eighteen performers' rights organisations established the International Performers’ Database Association (IPDA) with the goal of setting up an International Performers’ Database (IPD) in order to solve the problem of identifying performers participating in played recordings. The IPD assigns a unique ID number (IPN) to each performing artist. At present, 37 performers' rights organisations adhere to the IPDA with approx. 500,000 performing artists registered in the IPD.

For more information:

Founded in 1967, OCLC is a non-profit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs. More than 72,000 libraries in 170 countries have used OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalogue, lend, preserve and manage library materials. Researchers, students, faculty, scholars, professional librarians and other information seekers use OCLC services to obtain bibliographic, abstract and full-text information when and where they need it. OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the world’s largest online database for discovery of library resources. Search on the Web.

Press Contact - Ralph Munzenmayer - T +31 71 524 6500

About ProQuest (
ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company has forged a 70-year reputation as a gateway to the world's knowledge — from dissertations to governmental and cultural archives to news, in all its forms. Its role is essential to libraries and other organizations whose missions depend on the delivery of complete, trustworthy information.

ProQuest's massive information pool is accessible through the all-new ProQuest® platform, which moves beyond navigation to empower researchers to use, create, and share content—accelerating research productivity.

This energetic, fast-growing organization includes the Summon web-scale discovery service, the new ProQuest Dialog service, and business units ebrary®, Serials Solutions®, RefWorks-COS, and Bowker®.

12 December 2011

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