- What is an ISWC?
The ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) is a unique, permanent and internationally recognised reference number for the identification of musical works.
- Where did the ISWC originate?
The ISWC is part of the CIS plan (Common Information System) which CISAC - the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers - has developed in order to respond to the needs for information in the digital age.
- Is the ISWC a worldwide standard?
Yes, the ISWC has been approved by ISO (International Organization for Standardization). An official document defines how the ISWC should be structured, as well as the rules governing its issuance and application.
An official ISO copy of the ISWC Standard can be purchased here.
- How does the ISWC help creators?
The ISWC serves as a code to accurately, efficiently and quickly connect authors to a specific musical work. This code allows CMOs, publishers, music services and any stakeholder in the music value chain to track, identify, and ensure that music creators are attributed the remuneration that is duly owed to them for the use of each specific musical work allocated with an ISWC.
- What does the ISWC do and not do?
The ISWC uniquely and accurately identifies each specific musical work. The identification methods of musical works (e.g., by work title) may result in confusion at times, particularly when multiple musical works share the same or similar titles. The ISWC is permanently attributed to a musical work, allowing identification of that musical work even if the work is distributed across countries and languages. The ISWC supports a wide range of software applications, including those involving in tracking and exchanging musical works information (e.g. registrations, identifications, royalty distributions).
The ISWC identifies musical works, not their manifestations, objects, or expressions (e.g. publications, broadcasts). The ISWC will not identify recordings, sheet music or any other type of performance associated with the musical work. Furthermore, the ISWC will not indicate the shares of composers or copyright owners of the work (often there are too many owners, which can change with time, territory and rights), nor the date or place where the work was initially created or published.
- Is the ISWC fully modernised?
Yes, a modernisation project completed in 2020 has introduced several changes to the ISWC system to provide greater accuracy, more speed and increased efficiencies.
All ISWCs are now assigned centrally to ensure a consistent approach and to improve metadata. Local Registration Agencies will continue to process documentation locally.
It is now easier to update metadata for existing ISWCs. Multiple ISWCs can now be merged together or separated should these assignments have been done in error.
Registration Agencies can now flag works that appear identical (e.g., two unique songs with the same title assigned to the same creator) as unique works.
The speed at which ISWCs are assigned has been dramatically reduced with codes becoming ready for usage within hours for all partners in the value chain (e.g., digital services, publishers, sub-publishers) to accelerate the ability to monetise works.