The code written in your spare time is also company’s property? Nginx’s father’s arrest sparks controversy

Two Russian developers, Igor Sysoev, the father of Nginx, the world’s most popular web server, were arrested in recent days, ZDNet reported. The reason given by the police was that the two men were suspected of project infringement. The project refers to Nginx, which Igor Sysoev developed 15 years ago in his spare time while working for the old owners.

Igor Sysoev worked 15 years ago at Rambler, the parent company of Rambler.ru, one of Russia’s largest search engines and Internet portals, during which time he developed the web server Nginx in his spare time. Nginx is now a global server, with BAT and Facebook as part of their enterprise IT architecture. Igor Sysoev also founded NGINX in 2011 with this project. But years later, his old owner, Rambler, claimed that Nginx was developed by Sysoev during his time at Rambler and that ownership should also be owned by the company.

Nginx’s father was suddenly arrested.

On December 12, Russian police searched Nginx, a commercial server company, and took the two co-founders on the spot, ZDnet reported.

The first to break the news was an employee of Nginx who said in a tweet that the company’s two founders, Konovalov and Sysoev, had been taken away. At the same time, he said the situation was under review and that others were not currently in custody.

The code written in your spare time is also company? Nginx's father's arrest sparks controversy图源:推特用户@AntonNesterov

The code written in your spare time is also company? Nginx's father's arrest sparks controversy图源:ZDnet

Nginx is a lightweight Web server/reverse proxy server, released under the BSD-like protocol, with “less memory” and “strong concurrency”, the first public version 0.1.0 was released on October 4, 2004. Many domestic enterprises will nginx website, including Baidu, JD.com, Sina, NetEase, Tencent, Taobao and other top-level companies.

In February 2019, NGINX finally replaced Apache HTTPD as the most widely deployed server on the Internet. NgINX’s market share is as high as 38%, according to Netcraft’s Web Server Survey in December 2019.

Nginx’s search is suspected to be linked to a previous indictment by the Rambler Group. The Rambler Group is the parent company of Rambler.ru, one of Russia’s largest search engines and Internet portals. Last week, the Rambler Group filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against NGINX, claiming full ownership of the NGINX code. The reason is that Igor Sysoev developed Nginx when he was a system administrator for the Rambler Group, so the Rambler Group is the rightful owner of all Nginx code.

On the day the two co-founders were taken away, Nginx employees @igorippolitov sent out pictures of the search warrant on Twitter and were asked to delete it, but the original tweet was taken in a screenshot of the user, sparking concerns.

The code written in your spare time is also company? Nginx's father's arrest sparks controversy

The tweet read: “It appears that Rambler filled in this copyright notice about Nginx and Sysoev, which was raided by the police (unconfirmed). The NGINX employee @igorippolitov was the original publisher, but he was asked to delete the post. ”

The code written in your spare time is also company? Nginx's father's arrest sparks controversy

Copyright notice for the Rambler Group.

Later, the Rambler Group also made an official response to the Russian version to the media:

The code written in your spare time is also company? Nginx's father's arrest sparks controversy图源:俄罗斯媒体TheBell

In this response, the Rambler Group explains two questions: “Is the search related to the previous Rambler Group statement?” What exactly is the exact meaning of the violation of the rights of the Rambler Group in the “two is” statement? ”

The Rambler Group stated that the development work completed by Igor Sysoev since the beginning of 2000 was within the framework of its industrial relations with Rambler and that any use of the procedure by other subjects by other entities without the consent of the Rambler Group violated the exclusive right.

Media sources close to NGINX understand that the two co-founders have been released after being questioned, but their personal phones have been confiscated.

The code written in your spare time is also company? Nginx's father's arrest sparks controversy图源:俄罗斯媒体TheBell

NGINX has not yet formally responded to the matter.

Igor Sysoev: Nginx was developed during his time at Rambler, but used his spare time

The code written in your spare time is also company? Nginx's father's arrest sparks controversy

Igor Sysoev introduces himself on LinkedIn as “The Author of Nginx”. He graduated from The Bauman Moscow State Technical University in Moscow from 2000 to 2011 as a system administrator for Rambler, Russia, for nearly 11 years.

The code written in your spare time is also company? Nginx's father's arrest sparks controversy

Sysoev has never denied that Nginx was developed during his tenure with his former owner, Rambler. But in a 2012 interview, he said he developed Nginx in his spare time, and that Rambler didn’t even know it at first.

He said the server was initially not deployed at Rambler, but on the Rate.ee and zvuki.ru websites. Rambler began using Nginx after a curious colleague asked him.

After leaving Rambler, Igor Sysoev founded NGINX in the United States, providing tools and support services for Nginx deployment systems. The company is headquartered in San Francisco but has offices around the world, including in Moscow.

In 2019, NGINX was acquired by F5Framework, which continues to operate as a subsidiary of the latter.

Do things developed in your spare time belong to the company?

After Igor Sysoev’s arrest, there was also a debate about whether what developers developed in their spare time belonged to themselves or to the company.

As can be seen from the answer area, different companies have different attitudes to this question. Some companies, in order to avoid disputes or harm the interests of the company, will directly write in the labor contract that the individual in their spare time to create things also belong to the company. But there are also companies more relaxed, as long as the development process does not use the company’s software copy and hardware settings, the development results belong to the individual employees.

But from a company’s point of view, is it really a profit-maximizing practice to compete with departing employees for intellectual property rights? Is there any other option?

Wu Jun, a former senior google researcher, has spoken about Cisco’s approach to the issue in “Top of the Wave.”

After the launch, Cisco’s founding employees faced less motivation and less efficiency, but they still had many entrepreneurial qualities, such as creativity, diligence, and enthusiasm.

To get this part of the workforce to work, Chambers, Cisco’s manager, began encouraging capable employees to start businesses. This approach appears to be of little benefit to the company and may result in the loss of good employees. But Mr Chambers’s approach is to invest in companies founded by his own employees, and Cisco has a pre-emption right if they achieve something.

This innovative management model has played a big role in Cisco’s path to success.

Of course, this approach does not necessarily suit every company, nor does it necessarily lead to a successful business. But this example shows that we may have other options when it comes to “knowledge outcomes created by employees in their spare time”.

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