ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier)

What is ISNI?

ISNI is an ISO certified standard number for uniquely and globally identifying public identities of parties (persons or organizations). The Bibliothèque nationale de France is actively involved in the creation and the maintenance of the ISNI identifier, and ingests ISNIs in its own data.

ISNI scope

ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier) is the ISO certified global standard number (ISO 27729) for identifying the Public Identities of parties.

Parties can be a natural person, a legal entity, or a fictional character. ISNI identifies millions of contributors to creative works and those active in their distribution, including researchers, inventors, writers, artists, visual creators, performers, producers, publishers, aggregators, and more.

ISNI is especially useful for disambiguating homonyms. For instance, ISNI differentiates the french TV presenter Jacques Martin (ISNI 0000 0000 7359 228X) and the comics writer of the same name (ISNI 0000 0001 2033 0240).

A person known by two or more public identities (for instance a real name and a pseudonym) receives a discrete ISNI for each of the identities. For instance, separate ISNIs are assigned to Louis Poirier (ISNI 0000 0003 6864 5393) and to the pseudonym of the same person, Julien Gracq (ISNI 0000 0001 2143 4842).

Reversely, only one ISNI identifier is assigned to a public identity, regardless of the field of activity, or the role with respect to creative contents.


The ISNI International Agency (ISNI-IA) is the ISO Registration Authority for the ISNI identifiers. The CENL (Conference of European National Librarians) is one of the ISNI-IA funding members. It is represented by the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The international assignment agency ISNI-AA, run by OCLC, manages the central assignment system and the international database. A wider network of stakeholders is being built.

It includes:
  • Registration Agencies which provide the interface between ISNI applicants and the ISNI Assignment Agency. The Bibliothèque nationale de France is one of them since January 2014.
  • Direct members which are organizations that request ISNI identifiers for their own datasets.

ISNI governance and control infrastructure

ISNI governance and constrol infrastructure
For more info

ISNI-IA website

The ISNI Quality team provides quality assurance validation of the international ISNI database. Experts from the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France work in close collaboration with the technical OCLC ISNI team, helping to refine the matching algorithms and develop workflows for the quality of the database; it performs also data testing, editing. It also responds to end users’ inputs.

Functionalities and assignment principles

An ISNI identifier 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”. The ISNI identifier consists of a “dumb” number.
Example : ISNI 1422 4586 3573 0476

ISNI has all the required functionalities of identifiers on the web: it is unique, persistent, and actionable.

The ISNI assignment relies on rich metadata provided by various contributors from multiple domains (music industry, institutions involved in processing scientific and technical information, literature, movie industry, performing arts, etc.) with a variety of roles in the creation chain (rights management societies, libraries, distributors, etc.).

Metadata such as name, birth- and death dates, associated titles provided by various contributors are algorithmically matched to distinguish public identities and assign a unique, univocal identifier to each.

VIAF and the ISNI database

The international ISNI database was launched on November 2011. More than 12 million authority records from VIAF (Virtual International authority file) were loaded to the ISNI database and matched against data from other ISNI contributors. VIAF and ISNI remain interoperable, with regular updates from VIAF to ISNI and ISNI providing the identifiers to VIAF as well as significant data quality control feedback.
For more info

Presentation of VIAF
on the OCLC website

The ISNI international database

The ISNI database is publicly and freely available online. It provides the ISNI identifiers along with associated metadata.

The ISNI database gives access to all public information provided by its contributors and provides links to other systems. However, it is not intended to provide direct access to comprehensive information about a public identity.

In addition to the public display, metadata can be viewed in a MARC21 format as well as in the PICA format. They can be searched and retrieved in XML via the SRU protocol. A RDF output will also be made available.


ORCID was established to solve the problem of correct and accurate attribution of scholarly research output to individual researchers. ORCID is committed to allowing individual researchers to create, claim, manage and control the privacy of their data or to optionally delegate the management of their identification to their affiliated institutions or any other third party.

ORCID is committed to being interoperable with the ISNI identifier scheme. The two organizations managing ORCID and ISNI have issued Joint Statements on Interoperation. ORCID will be using ISNI identifiers to support the accurate and persistent identification of researcher institutional affiliations in the ORCID Registry.
For more info

on the ISNI-IA website

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


The BnF assigns ISNI numbers only to the persons and organisations listed in its Authority File.
Please email:

The persons and organisations non listed in this file should send their registration request for the ISNI database to

For more info