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The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC)

An Extremely Powerful Tool For Royalty Collection, Administration, And Anti-Piracy Safeguards In The Digital Arena

Country Code: The registrant’s (sound recording copyright owner) country (2 characters).
Registrant Code: The code of the registrant that allocated the ISRC (3 characters). Year Of Reference Code: The year in which the ISRC is allocated to the recording (2 characters). Designation Code: The code assigned to the sound recording by the registrant. This code may not be repeated within the same calendar year (5 characters).

ISRC US-S1Z-99-32476

The ISRC is a unique international identifier for sound and/or music video recordings. Comprised of a 12 character alpha-numeric code, the ISRC functions as a digital “fingerprint” for a sound recording and/or music video recording. Unlike a Universal Product Code the ISRC is tied to the recording and not the carrier of the recording (CD, cassette). In addition, the ISRC remains allocated to a recording regardless of changes in ownership. It is an extremely powerful tool for royalty collection, administration, and anti-piracy safeguards in the digital arena.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) issued Practical ISRC Implementation Guides in 1991, 1994, 1995 and 1998. The majority of the provisions contained in these publications are similar, however, each one outlines important changes in policy regarding the following areas:

* Registrant Code
In 1998, the Registrant Code replaced the First Owner Code. The First Owner Code identified the initial owner of the copyright in the sound and/or music-video recording. The Registrant Code now identifies the registrant of the recording when the ISRC is allocated.
* Year of Reference Code
In 1998, the Year of Reference Code replaced the Year of Recording Code, which identified the year the sound recording was recorded. The Year of Reference Code now identifies the year in which the ISRC is assigned to the recording.
* Designation Code
In 1994, the five digit Designation Code replaced the three/four digit Recording Code and the one/two digit recording Item Code outlined in the 1991 Implementation Guide. The Designation Code consists of five digits assigned by the Registrant. Numbers for the Designation Code should preferably be assigned sequentially and care should be taken to ensure that the same Designation Codes are never re-used within one calendar year.

A new ISRC must be allocated when a new sound recording is created, for example:

1. a sound recording is remixed;
2. changes in the playing time of a sound recording are intended “musically or artistically” and are longer than 10 seconds (playing time is measured from the first recorded modulation to the last recorded modulation);
3. a previously released recording is partially used as part of a compilation; and lastly,
4. a “full restoration” of a historical sound recording is performed by re-mastering, re-pitching, re-equalizing, de-noising or de-clicking a sound recording to meet contemporary quality standards. The registrant of the recording has discretion when making the determination between full re-mastering (sound restoration) and simple re-mastering (reproduction without sound restoration).

The ISRC is encoded at the mastering stage of the recording. In the case of music videos, the ISRC appears in the time clock for all analog formats and on the label outside of the box.

Please email inquiries to isrc@riaa.com.


Q. What does it cost?

A. RIAA assigns registrant codes and answers questions regarding implementation of the ISRC program for free. There is no charge for these services regardless of whether or not you are a member of RIAA. Your implementation of the ISRC is cost effective. It can be done without special investment in equipment or technological measures. It only requires you to develop an internal system for administering ISRCs.

Q. How do I use ISRC?

A. The first step is to apply for a registrant (company) code. This code can be obtained from RIAA, the national ISRC administration agency for the United States. Membership in the RIAA is not required to obtain a registrant code. RIAA strongly encourages all U.S. sound recording copyright owners to apply for an ISRC Registrant Code, and assign ISRCs to all sound recordings. Please use one of the links above to download the application.

Q. What does the code mean?

A. ISRC is a unique identifier for sound and music video recordings where one, and only one, identifying code is allocated to each version of the recording. For code allocation purposes, the ISRC is separated into its different elements. However, when the code is being used, it is the whole number that represents the sound or music video recording and no significance should be accorded to any one element. In particular, the registrant code cannot be assumed to identify a current rights owner as the recording may have changed hands since code allocation. Additionally, rights may vary territory by territory. Further, the year of reference cannot be assumed to be a year of recording. It represents the year the ISRC was assigned, which may or may not be the year the sound recording was released.

Q. When should the ISRC be applied?

A. The first owner of the rights to the sound recording usually assigns an ISRC. However this is not always the case. If the first owner of the sound recording did not assign the ISRC, then the current owner should assign it. Once assigned, the ISRC identifies the sound recording throughout its life. Changes in ownership do not affect the ISRC. An ISRC must be assigned to every different sound recording of an album but not to an unchanged sound recording when it is reused on a new or compilation album. To guarantee the unique identification provided by an ISRC, the reuse of an ISRC that is currently allocated to another sound recording or version of the sound recording is not permitted.

Q. Will I need to create a new ISRC for a remix?

A. Yes, The following are types of sound recordings that will require new ISRCs:

* Remixes, edits or new versions of a sound recording
* Sound recordings with changed playing times
* Partially used sound recordings (i.e., faded in or out)
* Fully re-mastered sound recordings (sound recordings with fully restored sound qualities)

If a company decides to change the title of a sound recording, with no alterations to the sound recording itself, we recommend keeping the same ISRC.

Q. What if a sound recording has more than one copyright owner?

A. One company in the split ownership must be responsible for the ISRC assignment.

Q. Can you register a sound recording that has been previously issued, but never assigned an ISRC?

A. Yes. Although an ISRC should be assigned by the first owner, this does not always happen. Sound Recordings that have not been assigned ISRCs by their first owners can be assigned ISRCs by the current owner. The Registrant Code will be that of the current owner of the rights and the Year of Reference Code will be the year the ISRC was assigned.

Q. How do I apply for the ISRC Registrant Code?

A. You can find the ISRC Registrant Code Request form at the top of this page. For more information, please email inquires to isrc@riaa.com.

Q. Do I have to be a member of RIAA to apply for a registrant code or request information about the ISRC program?

A. No. RIAA is the national administrator of the ISRC program in the United States, and as such does not require membership to assign registrant codes or provide information to sound recording copyright owners.

Q. How long does it take for the RIAA to assign a Registrant Code?

A. It takes up to five business days from our receipt of the request form. The request form can be mailed, emailed, or faxed to us.

Q. How is the Year of Reference Code allocated?

A. This 2 digit code reflects the year in which the ISRC is assigned, irrespective of when the sound recording was originally fixed. The sound recording copyright owner is responsible for assigning the Year of Reference Code.

Q. If recording rights are sold or transferred does the ISRC change?

A. No, if the sound recording remains the same, so should the ISRC.

Q. At what point in the recording process should the ISRC be allocated to a sound recording?

A. The ISRC should be encoded in digital sound carriers in the pre-mastering or authoring process in accordance with the specification on the format used. The ISRC should be allocated to a recording when a master is completed and the decision to release a recording has been made.

Q. Where can a sound recording copyright owner obtain a detailed copy of the ISRC Implementation Guidelines?

A. The ISRC Implementation Guidelines can be found in Chapter 4 of the ISRC Handbook at http://www.ifpi.org/content/section_resources/isrc.html