For a new software project, I'll be reusing more than 90% of a colleague's work as the base. But since it needs to be created as a new project, I'll be listed as the author of the product despite most of the work having been done by my colleague. He digested requirements, worked on new concepts with a trial & error approach, tested and so on.

I've been thinking that I should recognise his contribution in some way but does it matter whose name is on the repository? How important is being listed as an author on a work product?

I was considering cloning his repository as a base but that won't be an option. Now my first thought is to put the name of major contributors in the "README.md" file. Is this a good idea?

  • 1
    Is this taking place in a workplace context? If so, it's most definitely not "your repository". Apr 8, 2020 at 10:05
  • @PhilipKendall I am starting new project and I can reuse his ER-diagram, but not whole code. And by mean of new project I have to make new repository
    – Sam
    Apr 8, 2020 at 16:19
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    Check with legal. As far as I'm aware in my country I cannot legally say that I wrote something if I didn't do it, no matter any kind of deals. This particular right is non-transferable where I live.
    – jaskij
    Apr 9, 2020 at 23:02
  • Is this paid work? Does you employer own the source code? Do you worry about the contributions of your colleague to go unnoticed by management or by customers? Does your company have any specific regulations about that?
    – Daniel
    Apr 10, 2020 at 12:04

3 Answers 3


Re-read your contract. If you're a full time professional software developer, it (almost) definitely has a clause in it saying that your employer owns all IP produced by you during company time. As such it's the company's repository, not yours, or your co-worker's.

If this is going to be a valuable long term project used by the company, then over it's life time it will have a ton of contributors, and in any organisation I've ever worked at, the first contributor wouldn't be regarded as the major (or even an important) contributor to the project. That's achieved by participation over years, if at all.

If you want recognition for your contributions (or want to give your co-worker recognition for theirs), then the best way to do that is to highlight the relavent contributions to the relevant manager at performance review time.

  • Thank you for your answer. I was totally forgot performance review time!
    – Sam
    Apr 10, 2020 at 12:27

It is always good when work is tracable, not just to the author, but the project that inspired the first work to begin with.

Maybe in the future, someone comes across some part of the work, and they can't figure out why it was written that way. If they can look at the first project it came from, they may have sufficient context to figure it out. Or maybe they can ask the first author.

Also, if you can link the work together, if there is a serious defect found in the first piece of work, you do want to be able to identify subsequent piece of work that have the same defect. If there is some sort of technological solution, or even documentation that links the work together, that may make that possible.

In addition, you don't want to be seen as the person that steals credit. Even if that is not your intention, you don't want to cause friction in the workplace.

While this answer is software centric, it need not be. Maybe instead of a piece of software, it's a configuration file, or a legal document, or a policy document.

Lastly, there can be some industries where there are legal obligations for particular people to be the one to complete work. For instance, if you are forwarded a legal document that was certified by someone, it would be ill-advised to replace their name with yours. Or maybe it's an engineering schematic that needs to come from a registered engineer.


Every company has, or should have, a policy setting out what to do in this case.

Ask your supervisor.

If there isn’t already a policy offer to write one and submit it for approval.

  • Thank you for your answer. I will as my supervisor on this too
    – Sam
    Apr 10, 2020 at 12:23

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