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. 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. It is the software developer that usually requests for an escrow to protect and maintain their softwares.

Differentiating Licensee to 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

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. This situation can be addressed by employing a source code escrow service.

Stipulations in Escrow Service

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.

That the software source code be equally, as well as independently, maintained with the documentation, software tools or specialized hardware.

Requirement for the licensor to constantly update the software and updating the escrow agent on it.

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.

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.

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 the fee payments to the escrow agent.

Escrow Agents

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