Defining Source Code Escrow, Source Code, and Escrow Agents
In the computing world, all precious source code of an important software passes through what is termed as source code escrow, which simply means that the source code is deposited with the participation of a third party escrow agent. In programming of softwares, normally a coding language is designed by the programmer and this is called the source code, which is further translated by a compiler or assembler into a binary machine code to make the code decipherable by the computer. To protect a valuable source code of a software, this procedure is normally entrusted to a third party called an escrow agent, who is a lawyer and who holds the source code while a transaction is being finalized or that a disagreement is being resolved. The said escrow is normally requested by a party licensing software (licensee) to ensure protection and maintenance of the software.
Distinction between Licensee and Licensor
In extreme cases when the company or licensor fails to maintain and update the software as stipulated in the software license agreement or files for bankruptcy, the software source code will be released back to the licensee.
Necessitating Escrow Service
Many companies, who are dependent on a licensed software, do make a point of continually using it and maintaining 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
To apply a source code escrow, a software licensing agreement is employed and agreed on involving three parties: one or several licensors, one or several licensees, and the escrow agent.
These are the stipulations in source code escrow agreements.
Along with the software source code together with documentation, software tools or specialized hardware be independently maintained.
The licensor is obliged to put up updated versions, at a specified period, of the software in the knowledge of an escrow agent.
Instruct that the software source code be released to the licensee by the escrow agent on the following conditions: bankruptcy of licensor, cancellation of a software development project, unwillingness of licensor to meet the contractual obligations.
An agreement that when the software source code is released back to the licensee, he/she has the right to fix errors in the program or modify by independently developing further the software.
Specify clearly the duties of an escrow agent which involves custody and verification of the stored source code software if it is readable to a computer.
This stipulation may be included, known as non-compete clause, which forbids the licensee to employ the licensor’s staff as soon as the software is released.
And finally, the fees to the escrow agent.
It used to be lawyers who were hired as escrow agents, but lately museums, archives and software communities have also become agents.