Electronic Batch Registration to Common Works Registration - The Story behind the Conversion Tool

At the beginning of 2018, we released a free EBR to CWR Conversion tool. It was steadily gaining in popularity. It has also become an internal workhorse for the Data Cleaning and Conversion service we provide.

Almost by Accident

We have conversion tools that turn various spreadsheet formats (CSV/Excel) into CWR, and EBR falls in the category. However, when a client needed their EBR files converted to CWR, and our general CSV to CWR converter core would have needed significant changes to do that, we had another look at the issue.

It turned out that EBR is actually CWR slimmed down and put into a spreadsheet structure. With our CWR library finished and well tested, it’s reading capability was only slightly extended to handle EBR format. And then we just added a form and released it as a free tool.

EBR or more?

EBR in it’s vanilla form was fine for some use cases, but it did not cover all the cases, as it lacked columns for important data, most notably mechanical affiliations and agreement numbers, required in SACEM, PRS/MCPS, GEMA and many other societies. So, we started adding those columns, ending with a much more comprehensive Excel format.

Free versus Paid?

At the time, we saw our tools as foundations for our services, not as products. CWRs made with this tool were successfully used for registrations with societies in South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. But it turned out that many users needed support. At the same time, our open-source catalogue management software Django-Music-Publisher (DMP) was mature enough and more suitable for most of users of EBR to CWR converter.

EBR to CWR now only exists as paid service with appropriate support. We also added several settings that we set for our clients, according to their needs.

We did our best to find an appropriate solution for publishers who used it when it was free.

Handling Errors

Not every visitor succeeds with the conversion. A validation error may look like this:

Error in THE WORK: SPU, field `publisher_name`: Text contains invalid characters.

To someone fluent in CWR, the meaning of this sentence is completely obvious: one of the controlled publisher names has characters not allowed in names in a CWR file. And only the first error was reported, so fixing all of them would be a cumbersome task. We choose to change this.

Automatic fixing of minor issues

The conversion tool gained a butcher mode (as opposed to a ‘surgeon’), that dealt with most issues in EBR files. Initially we thought it to be risky and we cautioned against using it, but we have tested it on all the EBR files we had collected up to that point, and not once did it cause a problem, while in most cases it would enable the conversion. We can set it on or off for every client. But, it only solved part of the problem.

Dropbox as Interface

In order to solve the rest, we chose a different approach: to use Dropbox as interface. This really simplified the conversion.

We have different IN folders with different settings, OUT folders for successful conversions and an ERROR folders for reporting issues.

EBR to CWR with Dropbox interface now supports partial conversions: all valid EBR rows (work registrations) are converted to CWR, and a new EBR file, containing only bad rows, is created. Users can register some of the works immediately, and the rest once they have resolved the issues.


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