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Understanding Source Code Escrow, Source Code, and Escrow Agents

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. The source code of a software is a programmed coding language especially designed by the programmer and which is further processed by an assembler or a compiler into a binary machine code which easily readable 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. It is the software developer that usually requests for an escrow to protect and maintain their softwares.

Difference between Licensee and 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.

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. 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.

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.

Below are the provisions in source code agreements.

Along with the software source code together with documentation, software tools or specialized hardware be independently maintained.

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.

The contract may include what is called a non-compete clause, which prohibits the licensee to employ the licensor’s employees once the software is released to the licensee.

And finally, the fees to the escrow agent.

Who Can Qualify as 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.

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