Understanding 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. 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.
Difference 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.
The Necessity of Source Code Escrow Service
Employment and maintenance of a customized software is critical to many companies, such that they make sure that there is continuity of the software use even if the licensor is unable to continue. One way to achieve this is to obtain a copy of the updated version of the source code. It is in this situation where a source code escrow is needed.
Escrow and Its Agreements
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.
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.
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.
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.
Imply that the duties of escrow agents are custody and verification of the stored source code software such that it is 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 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.
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