New ISO standard for worldwide identification of musical works

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A new International Standard that provides a system for assigning a unique international identification code to musical works is expected to bring benefits for composers, authors, producers and publishers, television and radio broadcasters, music tracking service societies, music device manufacturers, and users of Web music sites.

Published by ISO (International Organization for Standardization), ISO 15707, Information and documentation - International Standard Musical Work Code (ISWC), is an efficient means of identifying musical works in computer databases and in the exchange of information on an international level between rights societies, publishers, record companies and other interested parties.

ISO 15707 was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 46, Information and documentation, subcommittee SC 9, Presentation, identification and description of documents, in collaboration with the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). It is available - price 56 Swiss francs - from ISO national member institutes (see complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat (

According to Jane Thacker, Secretary of ISO/TC 46/SC 9, ISO 15707 will significantly improve the administration of musical works on a worldwide basis. "The benefit of the international standard musical work code is that it can function as an international passport for the work that it identifies. It allows information on the use of musical works to be tracked, reported, and exchanged more efficiently," she said.

The standard will provide a unique, permanent and internationally recognized reference number for the identification of every musical work, published or unpublished, newly created or already existing, irrespective of its copyright status. It specifies a means of uniquely identifying a musical work, in the same way that an ISBN number is a unique identifier for books and ISSN for magazines.

"One of the key functions of ISO 15707 is to make it easier, faster and more efficient to administer rights and payments for musical works on a global basis," said Jane Thacker. "Collecting societies will now be able to make more efficient use of automated processes because the ISWC ensures faster and more precise identification of a musical work.

"Each ISWC is a unique number which is permanently assigned to a musical work and permits that work to be identified with precision across language barriers and national boundaries. It also removes any ambiguity as to the work being dealt with whenever information about musical works is stored or exchanged."

An ISWC number is made up of the letter "T" followed by 9 digits plus a "check digit", and gives access to key information such as the title, author(s) and composer(s) of the musical work. It may be assigned to any musical work, from songs to symphonies to advertising jingles, regardless of the medium, material or otherwise in which they exist.

In accordance with ISO 15707, the ISWC International Agency has the responsibility for the overall ISWC system maintenance and administration. The Agency will appoint and oversee the work of ISWC regional and/or local ISWC numbering agencies which will be authorized to receive and process applications for ISWC and allocate the actual ISWC numbers to the musical works.

CISAC, which developed the code in collaboration with ISO, represents over two million authors and composers worldwide through its 195 member societies in 100 countries. A common and internationally accepted ISO International Standard will serve as a major accomplishment for CISAC's Common Information System (CIS) plan, the international cooperative initiative in the field of collective administration of intellectual property rights in the digital age.

More information on ISO 15707, Information and documentation - International Standard Musical Work Code (ISWC), including the ISWC International Agency can be found on the ISWC Web site,

Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

+41 22 749 03 25
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