NGINX – Russian police detained co-founders and several employees

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Russian law enforcement officers have raided the Moscow offices of Nginx – the company behind the world’s second most popular web server software – over a copyright infringement complaint filed by Rambler, a Russian Internet portal and email service provider.

According to multiplereports from local media and social media, the police conducted searches and has also detained several employees of the company, including Igor Sysoev, the original developer of Nginx and Maxim Konovalov, another co-founder of the company.

Over 30% of the websites on the Internet today, including many of the world’s most popular sites like Netflix and Twitch, run on the Nginx server.

Igor Sysoev created the Nginx web server in the early 2000s and open-sourced it in 2004, after which he founded the company Nginx in 2015 that has now been acquired by F5 Networks, an American technology company, for $ 670 million.

According to a copy of the complaint shared on Twitter, Rambler accused that Sysoev created the software while he was working as a system administrator for the company. Thus, Rambler claims to own the copyright of the application.

Rambler also claimed that Sysoev worked on the project during his working hours, and then later, he illegally distributed the program, causing Rambler to estimate the damage of 51.4 million rubles.

“Nginx is an official work, the development of which since the beginning of the 2000s in the framework of labor relations with Rambler, was carried out by Igor Sysoev,” Rambler told a Russian media site.

“Therefore, any use of this program without the consent of the Rambler Group is a violation of the exclusive right.”

However, during an interview with another Russian site in 2012, Sysoev confirmed that he indeed worked at Rumbler during the years when he started working on the project, but he created the Nginx program in his free time.

“It should be noted that programming was not part of my job responsibilities, but since there were time and traction, the first thing I did was adapt the patch to compress Apache responses,” Sysoev said in that interview.

“Then, I was asked to deal with the mod_proxy module. I looked at it and decided it was easier to write everything from scratch than to adapt to some things there.”

This case has now been filed under part 3 of Article 146 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (violation of copyright and related rights).

An F5 Networks spokesperson confirmed the raid but told that they are still gathering the facts and have no further comment at this time.

A Rambler Group spokesperson couldn’t comment, citing poor knowledge of the English language.

However, the Rambler Group provided statements in Russian to local media outlets Kommersant and The Bell, confirming they indeed file a copyright infringement complaint against NGINX on December 4.

Rambler said it ceded the legal rights to bring copyright claims against NGINX Inc. to Lynwood Investments CY Ltd, a Cyprus-based company “which has the necessary competencies to restore justice in the issue of ownership of rights.”

Leonid Volkov, the Chief of Staff of Presidential candidate Alexei Navalny, criticized the raid and the legal case behind, claiming that after 15 years, the statute of limitations has run out to file a copyright infringement claim.

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