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Rep Zoe Lofgren has opened the forum for discussion and support of a new law she is introducing in response to the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz under intense pressure from prosecutors. Posted at Reddit, a company that Aaron is often said to have had a hand in creating, she writes about changing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA):
As we mourn Aaron Swartz’s tragic death, many of us are deeply troubled as we learn more about the government’s actions against him. His family’s statement about this speaks volumes about the inappropriate efforts undertaken by the U.S. government. There’s no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron’s death, but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced.
We should prevent what happened to Aaron from happening to other Internet users. The government was able to bring such disproportionate charges against Aaron because of the broad scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute. It looks like the government used the vague wording of those laws to claim that violating an online service’s user agreement or terms of service is a violation of the CFAA and the wire fraud statute.
Using the law in this way could criminalize many everyday activities and allow for outlandishly severe penalties.
When our laws need to be modified, Congress has a responsibility to act. A simple way to correct this dangerous legal interpretation is to change the CFAA and the wire fraud statutes to exclude terms of service violations. I will introduce a bill that does exactly that. In addition to the posted link, a draft copy of the bill is available here. In coming days, I will seek cosponsors for the bill from both political parties.
As you know from prior posts, I am drafting broader measures to improve copyright law that are separate from this effort. But this bill to amend CFAA and wire fraud statutes, which I would like to call “Aaron’s Law,” should be enacted separately and swiftly. It could be an important tribute to him.
But that is likely to happen only with your help and your support.
You can join the discussion and find out how to show your support for Aaron's Law here.
For those interested, Lofgren was recently interviewed by Arse where you can read a nice story about congress's experience of the SOPA blackout and her view on the foreseeable future of the web. You can read the Zoe Lofgren interview here.
Zoe Lofgren - Aaron's Law via Green Pirate
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