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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. 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. 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 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.

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. Therefore, a solution to this is to apply for an source code escrow services.

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.

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.

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

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.

After the release of the software source code, delineating the rights, obtained by the licensee, to modify the software for the purpose of correcting errors or to continue independent development of 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 finally, the 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.