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GNU recommends making an AUTHORS file to list the authors and contributors of a program. But how many "levels" of authors and contributors should the file contain? E.g. if I write a program foo that actively use some library, should I include the authors of that library in the AUTHORS file? It seems that the answer is "yes," because total code of foo contains code from the library. But if yes, that means I should also include the authors of all other libraries, including standard libraries of the compiler, authors of the compiler and other tools for producing final executable code, authors of the OS... When I should stop?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It seems reasonable to me to assume that the dependency project should have its own AUTHORS file and the whole process would reduce down recursively. You are responsible for identifying the authors for code you wrote. The authors of the other libs should already be mentioned in the AUTHORS file of each lib.

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The authors of your libraries dependencies are not authors of your project. As you have pointed out, not assuming that can get out of control. Typically you just list people who have contributed something directly to the project, in particular code and documentation. If, however, a particular dependency or person has significantly influenced your project, then it might be appropriate to have a "special thanks" section identifying those projects, communities, or people.

Let me use GitHub as an example. Each project has an automatically generated "contributors" list. How do they decide who is on that list? I am not exactly sure, but it appears to be anyone who has had a commit pushed to the repository.

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