I have read several post about how to give credit in open source projects, but none that target my question.

I have been working on an open source project for about a year now, and one of my latest editions has something that hasn't been implemented fully in any language (to my knowledge...). An author from a very popular project lauded me for my efforts and proceeded to implement those ideas in their project. Now, the algorithms aren't exactly the same, but I'm certain they could not have implemented without knowledge of my work. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the algorithms, when compiled to machine code, are ~95% the same.

As my project isn't that popular, the number of views per month is very low (less than 100, mostly attributed to myself as their is normally only 1 unique visitor per day.. i.e. myself), and right after they commented, there was over 100 views per day with 2 unique visitors. Shortly after, they published... Coincidence... I think not!

They have released it publicly and not stated my name anywhere (not even in the comments). Part of me is like "Who cares, it's open source and the community is better now", however the other side of me says "Wait just a second, every reputable project I come across is very forthcoming with credit because that encourages more actions by the community which is far better for the community."

So my question is twofold:

  1. Should I even bother asking for a mention in the credits?

  2. If so, how should I go about it?

Edit: I am looking for answer that draw on specific experience. I believe this question and the answers that follow will be beneficial to future users who come across similar situations where they have put in a considerable amount of work and would like to show other professionals some relevant experience.

  • did they abide by the license you released it under? Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 16:12
  • @ratchetfreak, I'm not really sure. Mine is under GPL 2.0 and the other project is under the MIT Licence.
    – Emil
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 16:15
  • 3
    @ratchetfreak: licenses don't apply to ideas, only to code. OP wrote that other author did not copy the code.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 19:51
  • @DocBrown, spot on.... The real crux of the matter is the algorithms which I developed with no outside resources. It wasn't for a lack of research as I don't think there is much literature on these topics. This sentiment is backed up by the fact that the author of the other project did not publish anything until my work became available (i.e. he couldn't find any resources either).
    – Emil
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 20:15
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    @Emil: when you publish something as open source, you have to live with the fact others might take your ideas for their own projects. You may increase the chance to become mentioned in such a project if your license is permissive enough to let others copy your code with the only restriction of keeping the original copyright/author notice (like the MIT license). GPL 2.0 may have forced that other author not to copy your original code when he wanted to put it into an MIT licence project.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 20:33

3 Answers 3


This is thinking a bit outside the box: you could write a paper about your algorithm, publish it (maybe in some scientific journal, on arXiv, just on your personal blog, or maybe just inside your project), and reference it in your project. Then ask the other author to do the same.

Basically, you have now provided free documentation to their project (by describing how and why the algorithm they implemented works), why would they reject this?

The fact that your name is now associated with that project as inventor of the algorithm now becomes simply a side-effect of having improved both your project's and the other project's documentation.

  • 2
    It's not the same to know the path than having walked down the path. Good advice. Just prove where the idea came from and how. Something that others are not in a position to do.
    – Laiv
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 14:40
  • Actually, I wasn't thinking about it in those terms, but you are right. It would be more work for someone who just re-used the algorithm to write such a paper than for the person who actually invented it. So, this might be a good way to demonstrate your "inventorship". Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 17:59

As you spent a year working on this thing and pioneered this feature for your own project, I do not think it is unreasonable to want to be included in the credits. Simply ask this author politely to consider adding you to the credits if he found your work helpful. I would think most fellow open source contributors would understand completely. Simply asking is free and quite likely to give you the outcome you want.

If for some reason they do not want to do this, as mentioned in the comments you could look to see if your license gives you any recourse. However that will not be fun for anyone involved, so there you might have to decide it is worth the hassle.

  • Thanks Nathaneal. This is what I was thinking about doing. I would upvote if I could (I need 15 rep).
    – Emil
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 16:48
  • @Emil , you should be able to accept the answer as 'correct', by clicking on the check mark. However, you should wait about a day doing that, to give others a chance to answer too.
    – Aganju
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 16:59
  • Again, thanks Nathanael for your helpfulness. I will certainly keep this in mind and make sure to wait at least a day.
    – Emil
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 17:01
  • +1 for the first part. However, that "license" recommendation will IMHO lead to nothing. Licenses don't apply to "ideas". Note OP said nothing of copying code, the other dev just reimplemented some ideas. See also ipwatchdog.com/2014/02/15/…
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 19:54
  • @DocBrown: I am well aware of that, however my reading of the question is that it is a bit ambiguous if there was any copying involved. I am not a lawyer able to determine that. I merely mentioned the license as if there is anything else that could be done, it would be there, but it is probably not worth the effort. Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 20:05

Yes, you should bother because you do not know how things evolve in the future. Maybe the author one day decides to create a commercial software from your code.

What you are after is not the license but the copyright. You can provide your code under any license you like but you hold the copyright since the moment you conceived the code as long as noone else had done before.

I think you should add a copyright message in your code under the license message and email the author letting him know that although the code is open and free to use or rewrite, it comes with some rights attached to the author. So, they are required to mention who has the copyright.

I have seen in numerous open source packages copyright messages and attribution to the original authors regardless of the options the license provides.

  • Copyright is completely irrelevant here. Copyright protects a concrete expression of an idea, not the idea itself. According to the OP's description of the events no code was copied. Not even the algorithm (which wouldn't be protected by copyright anyway) was copied: "the algorithms aren't exactly the same". All that was done was to implement the idea behind the algorithm: "proceeded to implement those ideas in their project." Ideas aren't protected by copyright or anything else. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 12:51
  • "you hold the copyright since the moment you conceived the code as long as noone else had done before." – This is wrong. It is completely irrelevant whether or not someone has expressed the same idea in the same way before. As long as you came up with that yourself, it is your copyright. The only problem might be how to prove in court that you didn't copy. I can write "Hey Jude", and it will be my copyright, as long as I can prove that I never heard the song and have no idea who The Beatles are. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 12:55
  • @JörgWMittag: "All that was done was to implement the idea behind the algorithm"...except he did not mention where he got the idea. That is violation of copyright. More here: gov.uk/copyright Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 18:46
  • Ideas cannot be copyrighted. Only a specific expression of an idea (such as a piece of source code) can. Therefore, copyright is completely and utterly irrelevant, since no copyrighted work was copied, only an idea, which is not copyrighted. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 18:51
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    @JohnKouraklis, I really appreciate the effort and the nice information you gathered. I have learned a whole lot of new information that will be very helpful in the future.
    – Emil
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 22:00

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