What does ISNI stand for?

ISNI means the International Standard Name Identifier.

Who uses ISNI?

It is primarily used by anyone involved in the content/media value chain, digital or physical, such as libraries, publishers, producers of music or films, bibliographic services, Rights Management Organizations, search engines, online stores, data aggregators, etc.

What is the scope of ISNI?

ISNI is a standard that uniquely identifies Public Identities involved throughout the chain of creation, production, management and distribution of intellectual or artistic contents. It identifies the Public Identities of Parties such as authors, composers, cartographers, performers, academic and scientific authors, researchers.

ISNI also identifies Public Identities of organisations involved in these roles. These include musical groups and other performing acts, as well as business firms, publishers, universities and their departments, and any other group of people acting together under a common name.

What is a public identity?

A Public Identity is the name by which a Party is publicly known. Parties can be a natural person, a legal entity, or a fictional character 

Is it possible to allocate multiple ISNIs to the same Party?

It is. The same Party may have multiple Public Identities, as is the case of pseudonyms that an author may have chosen to use for signing his or her creations. Each Public Identity relating to a given Party shall have separate ISNI.

EXAMPLE: Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine are two distinct Public Identities of one Party. Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine are allocated distinct ISNIs.

Is it possible to have links between multiple Public Identities?

If authorized by the Party, two or more ISNIs may be linked indicating a relationship such as a pseudonym.

EXAMPLE: The ISNI metadata set for Ruth Rendell includes the following metadata element: "ISNI 0000 0001 2149 1740 has for pseudonym ISNI 0000 0003 6864 7620", the latter being the ISNI for Barbara Vine.

What about alternative spellings of a given Public Identity?

William Shakespear and William Shakespeare are alternative spellings of the same Public Identity and therefore refer to a single Public identity with a unique ISNI. The same applies alternative spellings, alternative presentations, character set variances, transliteration variances and linguistic variances.


  • e. e. cummings and E. E. Cummings or Oxford University Press and OUP are alternative presentations of the same Public Identity.
  • Günter Graß, Guenter Grass and Guenter Graß are character set variances of the same Public Identity.
  • Ciaikovsky, Pjotr Iljc and Пётр Ильич Чайковский are transliteration variances of the same public identity.
  • Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Peter Tchaikovsky are linguistic variances of the same public identity
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)
  • Title of reference to a creation
  • A URI (or URL) providing a link to more detailed information about the Public Identity.
Can I get access to comprehensive information about a Public Identity?

The information contained in an ISNI record is used to uniquely identify the public identity. It is not intended to provide direct access to comprehensive information about that identity, but can provide links to external sources where such information is held. 

What happens to my input via the yellow box on an ISNI record?

Members of the public are able to make comments on ISNI records via the “yellow box” on the left of the data in an ISNI full record display.  Comments can include enrichments, web site links, corrections or requests to remove information from display and may be made by anybody.  It is optional to leave an email address, but if given, a reply will be sent.  A captcha is presented to verify that the input is coming from a human.  The input goes into non displayable fields until it is reviewed by the ISNI Quality Team.   Each evening a batch run generates an alert from all new input received.  The ISNI Quality Team endeavours to act within 3 days on all input and to give an email response where the address is known.  If you have not received action or a response to your input, please send an email to isni.qt@bl.uk

Can I ask for data to be removed or added to my record?

Yes requests to add or delete information are possible via the “yellow box” on the left of the data in a full record display. Anyone may request to add information to an ISNI record. The request will be reviewed by the ISNI Quality Team. If you are the subject of an ISNI record, then you may request that data should be removed from public display, e.g. birth date. ISNI can also place a field on the record to protect it from further update from its sources. In the case of erroneous data, ISNI will notify all its sources requesting correction. ISNI will also notify all its sources, if requested, to ask for the removal of the correct but private data but cannot guarantee subsequent action.

Is the ISNI an official international standard?

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

Can I keep my proprietary Party Identification system?

The ISNI has been designed as a “bridge” identifier, as an open layer above proprietary Party identification systems. It allows various industry partners to exchange information relating to a Party without theneed to disclose confidential information. To that extent, the ISNI only maintains the minimum metadata set needed to differentiate (disambiguate) two public identities. All other relevant information remains in proprietary databases secured by conditional access.

Who is administrating the ISNI system?

The Registration Authority for this standard is the ISNI International Agency. The ISNI International Agency (ISNI-IA) is a registered not-for-profit organization. The ISNI Registration Authority (RA), appointed by ISO, is in charge of creating and maintaining the ISNI reference database. The initial database is created from the founding members’ existing databases, ranging from all types of repertoires. The Registration Authority enriches and expands the database ,and is the sole owner of the ISNI related metadata. The RA is also responsible for the overall administration and governance of the ISNI Standard. The Registration Authority does not provide direct services to users. It systematically channels potential users through a Registration Agency. How can I get an ISNI? Most Users will access the ISNIdatabase through Registration Agencies. The list of all Registration Agencies is posted on the ISNI website.

Is ISNI free?

Not quite. Although the RA and the RAGs operate under the not-for-profit model applicable to all ISO Standards, the RA and RAGs charge fees to cover operating costs. As a principle, the RA tries to keep fees as low as possible as to allow the maximum deployment of the Standard. The ISNI Registration Agencies (RAGs) are appointed by the ISNI International Agency. They act as interfaces between the Users and the Registration Authority. Any business entity with a proven interest in the scope of ISNI is eligible to become a RAG. No exclusivity will be granted either on a territorial basis, or on a market segment basis such as the Book Publishing industry or the Music Industry. 

How do the Registration Agencies work?

The Agencies have unlimited read-only access to the full ISNI database. Then Agencies are the only authorized entities to issue ISNIs. All requests by Users to obtain an ISNI will be channeled through an Agency. 

What does the structure and syntax of an ISNI look like?

An ISNI is made up of 16 digits, the last character being a check character. The check character may be either a decimal digit or the character “X”. There are therefore one hundred thousand billion possible combinations.

Why does my ISNI contain an X – Is it indicating an error?

Your ISNI is correct and the X 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 right length and the numbers are in the correct sequence). The check digit algorithm produces a result that can be from zero (0) to ten (10). Because the check digit must only be one character in length, 10 is presented by X. Check digit algorithms are widely used in computer applications.

How are canonical ISNIs determined?

When the original records are merged, the deprecated identifier is written into the merged record so that both ISNIs will resolve to the same record / metadata information. The deprecated ISNI is thus not rendered useless. The rules for which record becomes the canonical ISNI in the case of a merge are, in order:

  • A record with assigned status trumps a record with provisional or other status (the ISNI has already been diffused)
  • The record containing a preferred source: either JISC Names (JNAM) or Ringgold (RING) (Preferred sources are recommended by the ISNI Technical Advisory Committee and approved by the Board as being base sources in their area with high quality curated data that has been disambiguated)
  • ISNI record with the most sources (therefore where the ISNI has been more widely diffused)
  • If still no record chosen, the one with the lowest value (first minted)