Russian Police Raided Nginx Offices in Moscow and Arrested the Co-Founders

By Bill Toulas / December 13, 2019

As reported by multiple local media in Moscow, the Russian police have raided the offices of Nginx, arresting the two co-founders Maxim Konovalov and Igor Sysoev, as well as other employees of the company. Nginx is a free and open-source software for Web serving, that can also be used as a load balancer, mail proxy, reverse proxy, and HTTP cache. It is a massively used tool that has captured about a third of the global server market, while it is also the most deployed technology in Docker containers at this moment.

nginx market share

Source: The Bell

The official reason for the raid seems to be a copyright claim that was filled by Rambler, one of the biggest Russian search engines and web portals. Allegedly, Sysoev created Nginx while he was working as a system administrator for Rambler, and thus the latter claims to own the copyright of the Web server software. They are further supporting their case by claiming that Sysoev was developing Nginx during his working hours, and then distributed the source code illegally, an act that ensued the company damages of 51.4 million rubles ($822,400).

Sysoev has previously denied that he has worked on the development of Nginx during his working hours, stating that it was a side-project that he focused on in his free time. That was years ago, and these accusations were almost forgotten by now, but there’s a reason for this sudden re-ignition. Nginx changed hands in March 2019, when F5 Networks bought the company for $670 million. As F5 Networks is a Seattle-based public US company, the Russian government wasn’t particularly happy with the deal. The world’s most popular Web server software went from being Russian to being American, and thus, the local regime lost potential controlling and overseeing possibilities.

If the court rules that Nginx is actually a property of Rambler, then the recent sale of the company could be disputed, although this will be extremely complicated from any legal standpoint. The local media unravel a plot-heavy story with "ghost" companies and offshores established in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, so this is going to be a humongous case that will take years to get to the bottom of. The most important aspect right now is that the case is no longer solely based on intellectual property rights disputes, but crime-level accusations. As more developments take place we will update this piece, so stay tuned.

Are you surprised by the Russian police raid of Nginx Moscow offices, or was it something that you would expect to see after the recent acquisition? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section down below, or join the discussion on our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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