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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. 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.

Differentiating Licensee to 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 Need for Escrow

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. Perhaps, one measure to be able to use the software continually is for the company to obtain a copy of the updated version. This situation can be addressed by employing a source code escrow service.

Escrow and Its Agreements

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.

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.

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.

Specify clearly the duties of an escrow agent which involves custody and verification of the stored source code software if 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 the fee payments to the escrow agent.

Escrow Agents

Normally, a notary lawyer plays the role of escrow agent, but in recent developments even museums, archives, and software communities have been solicited to be one.