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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. 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.

Difference between Licensee and Licensor

In situations where the licensor fails to commit its agreement of maintaining and updating the software or when the licensor files for insolvency, the software source code will be released to the licensee.

The Need for Escrow

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. 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.

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.

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.

There is also a stipulation called non-compete clause which disallows the licensee from hiring the licensor’s employees after the release of the software.

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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