The ISAN (International Standard Audiovisual Number) is a voluntary numbering system for the identification of audiovisual works. It provides a unique, internationally recognized and permanent reference number for each audiovisual work registered in the ISAN system.
An ISAN uniquely distinguishes one audiovisual work from all other audiovisual works. Other methods of identifying audiovisual works, such as by title, can result in confusion about the specific work being referenced. For example, one title can be very similar to another. Titles also change when a work is distributed beyond its country (or countries) of origin and the title is translated into other languages.
Because each ISAN is a unique number that is permanently assigned to an audiovisual work, it can identify that work across national boundaries and language barriers.
As a unique identifier, the ISAN is useful in a wide range of computerized applications, particularly those which involve databases or the exchange of information about audiovisual works. Some of its possible applications are:
to assist collecting societies in the management of rights;
to reduce unauthorized use of protected content.
The issuance of an ISAN is in no way related to any process of copyright registration, nor does the issuance of an ISAN provide evidence of the ownership of rights in an audiovisual work.
An ISAN may be applied to all types of audiovisual works including motion pictures and short films, trailers, video games, productions for television or other means of delivery, including individual episodes of television series; industrial, educational and training films; commercials; broadcasts and recordings of live events (such as sports events and newscasts); and composite and multimedia works if they contain a significant audiovisual component.
The ISAN code itself is a “dumb” number, meaning that it does not include any signifying elements. Its purpose is to uniquely identify the work, and always relates and provides descriptive information about the audiovisual content.