As useful as software is, it can often be a difficult area when it comes to the law. This is partially due to the digital nature of software itself and who owns the rights to it as a product.
To this end, here is a brief overview of some of these areas regarding software such as who owns the rights and how you can further protect yourself with software escrow services. Whilst being able to use software is effective, this knowledge will help you protect yourself when things go wrong.
Who Has What Rights?
The main issue with software is that, if you’re the end user, you don’t have rights to the actual product; the source code. What you have is a licence to use the software, as you agree to this in the form of an end user agreement on most pieces of software.
This enters you and the software provider into an agreement, whereby the provider is offering to provide SaaS or ‘Software as a Service’. In short, you can’t own the source code, but the provider has an obligation and duty to provide a working product. This extends after you initially purchase the licence as it has to keep working. If there is an inherent flaw that is the software’s fault, it’s not up to you to fix it, which is something many mistakenly assume.
In most cases, this end user agreement would be enough but, for the times when you actively depend on the software for important work or other means, you may want to invest in escrow services and software verification. This works exactly like other escrow services by using a third, neutral party to hold the code in escrow.
Should there ever be a dispute over the end user agreement, such as if you feel the provider has not upheld their legal responsibility, these services can be used to assess the matter from a neutral, legal stand point. In the decision is in your favour, the escrow company has the power to provide you with the code and product since the provider has failed in their SaaS.
Likewise, for software developers, this ensures that the vital code is only given out when strictly necessary. It also adds as a bridge of trust in many ways, since both sides are aware that it is in escrow which arguably encourages the provider to ensure the product continues to work.