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. 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. 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.
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
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. To be able to use the software continuously, the company can obtain a copy of the most updated version of the source code. This situation can be addressed by employing a source code escrow service.
Escrow and Its Agreements
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.
These are the stipulations in source code escrow agreements.
The subject and scope of the escrow, which, respectively, refers to the software source code and the requirements of the licensee, require for independent maintenance of the following: documentation, software tools or specialized hardware.
Requiring the licensor to create updated versions of the software in specific intervals invoking the escrow.
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.
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.
Before, lawyers were usually hired as escrow agents, but, nowadays, archives, museums and software communities are already considered to qualify as escrow agents.