Definitions of Source Code Escrow, Source Code, and Escrow
Source code escrow is a condition, in the computing world, wherein the source code of a valuable software is being deposited and entrusted with a third part 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. 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.
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.
The Necessity of Source Code 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 lastly, the required fees to the escrow agent.
Who Can Qualify as Escrow Agents
Before, lawyers were usually hired as escrow agents, but, nowadays, archives, museums and software communities are already considered to qualify as escrow agents.