Copyright Used As Pretext for Russian Police Raid of Nginx Inc.

US company, Nginx had their offices raided by Russian police. The Rambler Group claims that the company was infringing on its copyright.

Some tense moments took place in Russia. The offices of Nginx Inc., an American owned business, have been raided by Russian police. The pretext of the raids is a complaint made by Russian company, the Rambler Group. Specifically, they made alegations that Nginx infringed on their copyright. The allegations stems from an employee who used to work for Rambler Group. He then co-founded Nginx. The Rambler Group feels that, because he worked for them previously, they own the rights of the code he wrote after he left.

After the raids, arrests were made including a co-founder of the company. From Bloomberg:

The raid is the latest example of the widespread use of Russian law enforcement in corporate disputes. U.S. investor Michael Calvey, one of the most successful private equity investors in Russia, was jailed this year and remains under house arrest over what he claims is a business conflict.

Maxim Konovalov, who co-founded Nginx Inc. in 2011, linked the raid to the May sale of the company. He and his partner Sysoev were briefly detained during the Thursday raids of their apartments and the company’s Moscow office.

“We fear for our freedom,” Konovalov said by phone. “Rambler didn’t pay attention to us in the preceding years.” Konovalov said he and Sysoev are “not going to flee Russia. We will stay and we will fight.”

Following the story, Ashmanov since commented on the case, saying that the copyright infringement case has no merit. From The Daily Swig:

Igor Ashmanov, a former Rambler chief executive, has reportedly questioned the merits of the copyright infringement claim.

“He was a system administrator at Rambler. Developing software wasn’t part of his job description at all,” Ashmanov said in a Facebook post, the FT reports.

“I don’t think Rambler can come up with a single piece of paper, never mind a non-existent task to develop a web server.”

After that, reports surfaced saying that the Rambler Group is going to drop the criminal copyright complaint. From the National Post:

Russia’s Rambler media group said on Monday it will stop trying to have a criminal case brought against web server Nginx, which was developed by former Rambler employees.

The board said in a statement after the meeting that it had asked Rambler’s management team to request Russian law enforcement agencies cease pursuit of the criminal case, and begin talks with Nginx and with F5, a U.S. firm that bought Nginx in March for $670 million.

“We will do our utmost to ensure that this situation is resolved through negotiations, with the involvements of all parties,” the statement quoted Rambler board chairman and Sberbank first deputy chief executive Lev Khasis as saying.

Observers worry that corporate disputes are once again being settled through Russian police action.

The news comes as other cases of copyright abuse have been once again cropping up in the news. Earlier, TeeSpring pulled Techdirt products from their store, suggesting copyright infringement. However, when pressed on what specific policy was violated and how their products infringed on copyright, the company refused to say.

The day before, a YouTuber had his video taken down after a company declared the public domain material he used to be copyright infringement.

This probably won’t be the last time we hear about questionable copyright claims either.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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