The ISNI—International Standard Name Identifier—has become critical in tracking book rights and allocating attribution.
By Laura Dawson, Product Manager—Identifiers, Bowker
The ISBN has dominated discussions about metadata in the book world, but as search engines get more sophisticated and semantic web programming becomes more accessible, there are other identifiers playing into book discovery.
One of the most important is the ISNI – International Standard Name Identifier. It identifies names. As it turns out, a name is not a sufficient identifier in itself — two people (or companies) might have the same name. Or one person might spell her name in several different ways (particularly if she is Russian or Arabic or Chinese, and her name is transliterated from another alphabet). Tying search to a single spelling (or the hope that each person is named uniquely) is going to produce a lot of confusion.
Of course, ISNI is not solely concerned with search results. As books are published in an ever-increasing variety of formats, issues of rights — territorial and usage — become paramount. Having a way to relate an author to a pseudonym can be critical in tracking rights. Making sure that an author gets paid regardless of whether or not his name is spelled Dostoevsky or Dostoievski is important. Making sure a researcher gets proper credit in a published paper — which will affect her career — is essential.
ISNI was published by ISO earlier this year. There are currently two registration agents worldwide: Ringgold, which is concentrating primarily on organization and publisher names; and Bowker, which is concentrating primarily on author and publisher names. (Bowker and Ringgold are working together to make sure that ISNIs are applied to publisher names consistently.) It’s expected that there will soon be other registration agencies around the world, covering fields like music and film.
The ISNI board is made up of representatives from many creative organizations: IFRRO (International Federation of Reproductive Rights Organizations), CISAC (Confederation Internationale d’Auteurs et Compositeurs), OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), CENL (Center for European National Libraries), ProQuest/Bowker, and IPDA (International Performers’ Database Association).
So what is important to know about ISNI?
- Authors who share the same name are disambiguated (in search results, in royalty and rights databases).
- Authors who write under pseudonyms are kept separate for search, but related in the ISNI metadata (for royalty and accounting purposes).
- Books written by organizations are clearly distinguished (so books written by National Geographic are linked to books written by The Editors of National Geographic).
- Publisher names are clearly distinguished (so books published by Helmsford Press are linked to books published by Helmsford Publishing, if indeed they are the same company).
To find out more about this tool for discoverability and rights tracking, contact Laura Dawson (firstname.lastname@example.org).