Understanding Source Code Escrow, Source Code, and Escrow Agents
Source code escrow is a condition, in the computing world, wherein the source code of a valuable software is being deposited and entrusted with a third part escrow agent. The source code of a software is a programmed coding language especially designed by the programmer and which is further processed by an assembler or a compiler into a binary machine code which easily readable by the computer. Escrow agents, who are usually lawyers, function as keepers of the source code and represent the third party while a transaction with respect to the source code of a particular software is being finalized or when there is a disagreement that is being resolved. Normally, the party licensing software (licensee) hires an escrow to protect and maintain their software.
In cases where the company (licensor), who franchised the software, files for insolvency or fails to maintain or update the software as agreed upon in a software license agreement, the software source code will be released back to the licensee.
The Need for Escrow
Companies, who have gained a lot and are dependent on the customized software, will ascertain that there is continuity of use and maintenance of it even if the licensor is unable to do so. Perhaps, one measure to be able to use the software continually is for the company to obtain a copy of the updated version. This situation can be addressed by employing a source code escrow service.
Stipulations in Escrow Service
Three parties are included in the application of a source code escrow where an agreement (software licensing agreement) is entered into – one or several licensors, one or several licensees, and the escrow agent.
The following are provided for in source code escrow agreements.
That the software source code be equally, as well as independently, maintained with the documentation, software tools or specialized hardware.
Requirement for the licensor to constantly update the software and updating the escrow agent on it.
Agreement to release the software source code by the escrow agent to the licensee in cases of bankruptcy of licensor, cancellation of a software development project, unwillingness of licensor to meet the contractual obligations.
After the release of the software source code, delineating the rights, obtained by the licensee, to modify the software for the purpose of correcting errors or to continue independent development of the software.
Comprehensive duty of escrow agent, such that it not only narrows down to custody of the software but includes verifying of the source code storage media as readable to a computer.
The contract may include what is called a non-compete clause, which prohibits the licensee to employ the licensor’s employees once the software is released to the licensee.
And finally, the fees to the escrow agent.
Normally, a notary lawyer plays the role of escrow agent, but in recent developments even museums, archives, and software communities have been solicited to be one.