This page considers content identifiers, building blocks for
digital rights management regimes.
It covers -
Foundations for the advanced DRM schemes discussed in
this note are provided by global identifiers of varying sophistication
Those identifiers are metadata
- 'information about information' - and are used for purposes
that include billing, enforcement, attribution and sharing
of revenue among rights owners. They may uniquely identify
individual copies/uses of a work, identify a specific work
or identify a basket of discrete intellectual property rights/works
that comprise a specific publication.
A useful starting point is the detailed paper
on Information Identifiers by Norman Paskin of DOI
The most ambitious scheme is probably the International
Standard Work Code (ISWC), a global identifier that would
potentially cover all digital content and much print or other
Number is a 'universal' unique identifier developed in Europe
and associated with the Common Information System (CIS) under
the auspices of international copyright body CISAC
(International Confederation of Societies of Authors &
Composers). The intention is that the identifier - with endorsement
from the International Standards Organization (ISO) - will
link works, right holders and agreements.
CISAC envisages development of a range of identification numbers
The International Standard Work Code (ISWC) is being
used for musical works (ISWC-T) and developed for literary
works (ISWC-L). The codes are 'dumb' numbers, ie they are
sequentially allocated ten-digit identifiers that do not incorporate
author/region data but instead relate to a global database
containing author, publisher and other rights management information.
The new number would supplement or replace the existing International
Standard Music Number (ISMN), a publishers number used
for sheet music and recognized by the ISO.
The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) -
being considered by CISAC and the International Federation
of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) - would replace the ISO-recognized
Standard Recording Code identifying musical recordings such
as a track on a CD, currently found on less than 40% of recordings.
IFPI argues that most online content consists of "manifestations"
of works ("digital objects") rather than "works"
in a pure copyright sense and that the new code would allow
differentiation between works and particular recordings or
The International Standard Book (ISBN) and Serial (ISSN)
Numbers have been in use for around thirty years. In contrast
to the ISWC the ISBN is 'intelligent', comprising a one-digit
region code, a publisher prefix, and sequentially attributed
numbers specific to the publication, followed by a check digit.
Journals and other periodicals are similarly identified by
the ISSN. The two numbers relate to a specific title and thus
do not identify constituent images, text and other content
that may have a separate identity for copyright purposes.
A perspective on evolution of the ISBN is provided in the
US ISBN Agency's paper
on The Digital World & The Ongoing Development
of ISBN. The two schemes have attracted more support than
the Universal Serial Item Names (USIN)
and associated Bibliographic Protocol (BibP) proposal.
The ISWC will, it is expected, accommodate the PII, SICI and
BICI schemes described below.
The Compositeur Auteur Editeur Code (CAE/IPI)
used by music rights management bodies was developed in 1992
by CISAC but largely superseded by the "Interested Parties"
(IP) Number - confusingly using the same format - that sought
to identifying all rightsholders. The format of the number
itself did not change. Access to the IP database is currently
restricted; some have argued that an enhanced CAE could lead
to a standard identifier for all content industries.
The proposed International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN),
a joint development of CISAC and the ISO, is a 16-digit dumb
number to identify audiovisual works of all kinds. It would
be administered by a non-profit-making, international agency
and used to identify film and other AV content in analogue
or digital formats, including compact disks, websites, packaging
The EU's ARGOS
project aims to develop open systems protocols for the exchange
of such standard numbers and other rights management information
between networks, databases and devices.
PII, SICI and BICI
The Publisher Item Identifier (PII) was developed in
1995 by an informal group of major scientific/technical publishers
in North America and the EU. It comprises seventeen alphanumeric
characters indicating publication type (book or a journal),
and other information such as the year of a serial publication.
The Serial Item & Contribution Identifier (SICI)
currently used by some publishers, subscription agents and
libraries does not identify individual articles.
An expanded SICI and a new Book Item & Component Identifier
under development, would be tied to global databases and identify
components of a book or serial (eg an illustration, an article,
a foreword, or a table).
has developed the InterDeposit Digital Number (IDDN), currently
in use mainly for MP3 recordings.
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