Nginx's office is being searched due to Rambler Group's lawsuit. The complaintant press service confirmed the suit
It is assumed the complaintant is Rambler, and the defendant is still an 'unidentified group of persons', and in the long run — the founder of Nginx, Igor Sysoyev.
The point of the claim: Igor started working on Nginx as an employee of Rambler and only after the tool became popular he founded a separate company and attracted investments.
It is not clear why Rambler revised its 'property' only 15 years later.
The first information about the searches and the criminal case was published on Twitter by @igorippolitov, apparently an employee of Nginx. According to Ippolitov, representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs forced him to remove the tweet, but there are still screenshots and photos of the search warrant, which are now distributed online.
So far there has been no official confirmation by Sysoyev or Nginx officials that the search was conducted. Perhaps this is due to the peculiarities of the criminal proceedings.
If the document photographed by Nginx's employee is real, the criminal case was initiated under parts B and C of the Article 146 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, which means 'on an especially large scale'… 'committed by a group of persons by previous concert or by an organised group':
shall be punishable by compulsory labour for a term of up to five years, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to six years accompanied by a fine in the amount of up to five hundred thousand roubles or in the amount of a wage/salary or other income of the convicted person for a period of up to three years or without such.
Thus, Sysoyev and other founders are at risk not only of losing the project, but also up to 6 years in prison.
From an interview with Igor Sysoyev to Hacker magazine on Habr (based on Windev's comment to this news):
— Interestingly, you had been working both for Rambler and on Nginx. Rambler didn't have any rights? It's such a delicate question. How did you manage to keep the rights to the project?
— Yes, it's a pretty delicate question. Of course, you are not the only one interested in this question, we also have worked on it quite thoroughly. In Russia, the legislation is arranged in such a way that the company owns what is done within the labor duties or under a separate contract. So, there should be a contract with a person, where it would be said: it is necessary to develop a software product. At Rambler I worked as a system administrator, developing in my spare time, and the product was released under the BSD license as open source software from the very beginning. In Rambler, Nginx began to be used when the main functionality was ready. Moreover, even the first use of Nginx was not in Rambler, but in Rate.ee and zvuki.ru.
According to unconfirmed information, Sysoyev and Konovalov were apprehended.
The commentary was published by the editorial office of the vc.ru media and the Kommersant newspaper:
We discovered that Rambler Internet Holding's exclusive right to the Nginx web server had been violated by third parties.
In this regard Rambler Internet Holding has assigned the right to bring claims and actions related to the violation of the rights to Nginx to Lynwood Investments CY Ltd, which has the necessary competence to restore justice in the issue of ownership.
press service of Rambler Group
According to Kommersant, Lynwood Investments is associated with Rambler Group co-owner Alexander Mamut. Through this company the businessman owned the British book chain Waterstones.
Kommersant published some more statements by Rambler's press office:
The rights to the Nginx web server belong to Rambler Internet Holding. Nginx is a proprietary creation Igor Sysoyev has developed as part of his employment with Rambler since the early 2000s, so any use of the program without the permission of the Rambler Group is a violation of an exclusive right.
Rambler Group's press office for Kommersant
Russian businessman Igor Ashmanov, who was the COO of Rambler at the beginning of the 00s, commented on the news about the search at the Nginx's office on roem.ru:
>Sysoyev worked during working hours, in Rambler's office, on Rambler's equipment. 'His free time began after he left the office'.
- This is bullshit. There is no such thing in our legislation. It needs to proved, you need to get work assignment [to consider worker's creation belongs to company]. 'On official equipment' or 'during working hours' — this doesn't work. Everything is possible — and the intellectual property belongs to the author.
- Besides, when hiring Sysoyev — I hired him in 2000 — it was specifically mentioned that he had his own project and he had the right to run it. It was called something like mod_accel at the time and he gave it the name Nginx somewhere between 2001–2002.
I can testify about it in court, if necessary. And my partner in 'Ashmanov and Partners' and Kribrum, Dmitry Pashko — technical director of Rambler and Sysoyev's supervisor back then — I think [can do it] too.
- He worked in Rambler as a sysadmin. Software development was not the part of his job description at all.
- I don't think Rambler can show a single piece of paper, not to mention a non-existent assignment to develop web server.
The source of thebell.io who is familiar with Nginx employees claims Sysoyev and Konovalov were released from the Moscow police station and both had their phones confiscated.
After questioning the CEO of Nginx shared his thoughts on the search and its motivation with Forbes. According to Konovalov, the searches were carried out at home, and not just at the company's office:
They came to me at 7 a.m. — special police with machine guns… some people with my picture asking neighbours where I live, even though I had never holed up.
Laptops and mobile devices were taken from the Nginx founders. Both entrepreneurs were interrogated for about 4 hours.
Nginx CEO believes the reason for the criminal case and searches was the sale of the project to F5 company for $670 million:
If we hadn't sold the company or sold it cheaply, or went bankrupt, none of this would have happened.
Konovalov is also grateful to the community for the wave of support:
I haven't read the news yet, but I have heard of a huge wave of support. A many thanks to everyone. We're just very glad that there is such support.
In the near future Konovalov and Sysoev are planning to develop a plan to protect Nginx from Rambler's claims.