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. An escrow agent, who is usually a lawyer, is a person, representing as third party, who holds the source code for safekeeping while a transaction is taking place or finalized or in cases where there’s need to resolve a disagreement with respect to the design or ownership patent of a software. Normally, the party licensing software (licensee) hires an escrow to protect and maintain their software.
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.
Companies, who have gained a lot and are dependent on the customized software, will ascertain that there is continuity of use and maintenance of 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. It is in this situation where a source code escrow is needed.
Contract Provisions in Source Code Escrow
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.
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.
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.
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 finally, the fees to the escrow agent.
Before, lawyers were usually hired as escrow agents, but, nowadays, archives, museums and software communities are already considered to qualify as escrow agents.