News For This Month: Software

Defining 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. 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. 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. The said escrow is normally requested by a party licensing software (licensee) to ensure protection and maintenance of the software.

Distinction 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. 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

Three parties are included in the application of a source code escrow where an agreement (software licensing agreement) is entered into – 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.

Requiring the licensor to create updated versions of the software in specific intervals invoking the escrow.

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.

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.

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 the fee payments to the escrow agent.

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.

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