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. A source code is a special, coding language designed by programmers in the process of developing a type of software, wherein the source code is later transformed by a compiler or an assembler into a binary machine code in order to be understood by the computer. An escrow agent, who is usually a lawyer, is a person, representing as third party, who holds the source code for safekeeping while a transaction is taking place or finalized or in cases where there’s need to resolve a disagreement with respect to the design or ownership patent of a software. It is the software developer that usually requests for an escrow to protect and maintain their softwares.
Difference between Licensee and Licensor
In situations where the licensor fails to commit its agreement of maintaining and updating the software or when the licensor files for insolvency, the software source code will be released 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. To be able to use the software continuously, the company can obtain a copy of the most updated version of the source code. It is in this situation where a source code escrow is needed.
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.
That the software source code be equally, as well as independently, maintained with the documentation, software tools or specialized hardware.
The licensor is obliged to put up updated versions, at a specified period, of the software in the knowledge of an escrow agent.
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.
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.
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.
There is also a stipulation called non-compete clause which disallows the licensee from hiring the licensor’s employees after the release of the software.
And lastly, the required 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.