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Defining Source Code Escrow, Source Code, and Escrow Agents

Any valuable source code of an important software should always be kept safe and protected by depositing it properly through a third party escrow agent and this state is known as source code escrow. 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. 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.

Difference between Licensee and Licensor

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 Necessity of Source Code 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.

Stipulations in Escrow Service

Source code escrow always takes place in a agreement called software licensing agreement, involving at least three parties: one or several licensors, one or several licensees, and the escrow agent.

The following are provided for 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.

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.

A stipulation to allow the licensee to fix errors in the software or further develop the software once it is released back to the licensee.

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 the fee payments to the escrow agent.

Who Can Qualify as Escrow Agents

It used to be lawyers who were hired as escrow agents, but lately museums, archives and software communities have also become agents.