What is Source Code Escrow?
Source code escrow refers to the process by which a third-party escrow agent holds the source code of a software vendor, which is typically protected by copyright, on behalf of the software buyer or licensee. This practice is often used in complex software agreements or where mission-critical applications are involved.
The premise of the escrow is that it acts as a safeguard for the licensee or buyer in the event that the software vendor, for whatever reason, is unable to maintain or develop the software. In some cases, companies that license software applications developed by third-party vendors rely heavily on these applications, making them an integral part of their business operations. In such cases, a software vendor’s failure to maintain or develop the software can have catastrophic consequences, which could potentially disrupt or even halt a business’s vital operations.
In a source code escrow arrangement, the licensee or buyer pays a fee to the escrow agent, who then holds a copy of the original source code on behalf of the licensee. The software vendor must periodically provide updates to the source code to the escrow agent, who will then verify that the source code has been updated and that the updates are usable. If the software vendor is unable to maintain or develop the software for whatever reason, the escrow agent will release the source code to the licensee, allowing them to continue to use and develop the software.
In addition to serving as a safeguard for the licensee or buyer, source code escrow can also benefit the software vendor. By providing the licensee with access to the source code in the event of their inability to maintain or develop the software, they can help to maintain the customer’s confidence in the company’s software products. Additionally, source code escrow can also help to reduce the need for software vendors to compete with one another on the basis of price, as the licensee has the assurance that they will be able to continue using and updating the software, regardless of who provides it.