Russian police raid NGINX Moscow office

Russian search engine Rambler.ru claims full ownership of NGINX code.

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Image: NGINX, ZDNet

Russian police have raided today the Moscow offices of NGINX, Inc., a subsidiary of F5 Networks and the company behind the internet's most popular web server technology.

Equipment was seized and employees were detained for questioning.

Moscow police executed the raid after last week the Rambler Group filed a copyright violation against NGINX Inc., claiming full ownership of the NGINX web server code. The Rambler Group is the parent company of rambler.ru, one of Russia's biggest search engines and internet portals.

According to copies of the search warrant posted on Twitter today, Rambler claims that Igor Sysoev developed NGINX while he was working as a system administrator for the company, hence they are the rightful owner of the project.

Sysoev created NGINX in the early 2000s and open-sourced the NGINX code in 2004.

In 2009, he founded NGINX, Inc., a US company, to provide adjacent tools and support services for NGINX deployments. The company is based in San Francisco, but has offices all over the world, including Moscow. The NGINX server's source code is still free and managed through an open-source model, although a large chunk of the project's primary contributors are NGINX, Inc. employees, who have a firm grip on the project's stewardship.

Sysoev never denied creating NGINX while working at Rambler. In a 2012 interview, Sysoev claimed he developed NGINX in his free time and that Rambler wasn't even aware of it for years. He said the server was first deployed on the Rate.ee and zvuki.ru websites and Rambler started using it only after a colleague inquired about it.

In February 2019, NGINX finally dethroned Apache HTTPD and became the most widely deployed server on the internet. According to the Netcraft December 2019 Web Server Survey, NGINX has market share of 38%.

A month later, in March 2019, cyber-security and networking equipment vendor F5 Networks acquired NGINX Inc. for $670 million.

NGINX employee reports Sysoev's arrest

News of the raid went viral today when an NGINX employee posted a screenshot of the search warrant on Twitter. He later deleted the tweet at the request of Russian police. The raid was confirmed by other employees.

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The same employee said that two NGINX employees have been detained during the raid, including the NGINX creator, NGINX Inc. co-fonder and current CTO Igor Sysoev, as well as fellow co-founder Maxim Konovalov.

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Image: ZDNet

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

A Rambler Group spokesperson confirming to ZDNet that they indeed file a copyright infringement complaint against NGINX on December 4.

"We have discovered that exclusive right of Rambler Internet Holding upon web-server of NGINX has been violated as a result of third-party actions," Rambler told ZDNet.

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 necessary competences for providing justice in ownership issues ."

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.