Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced Aaron’s Law in the House. A much anticipated bill, Aaron’s law aims to clarify the vagueness currently inherent in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Named after the late Aaron Swartz – the computer genius who took his own life earlier this year when faced with 35 years in prison for downloading a bunch of academic articles – the law would make it impossible for federal authorities to convict someone for minor violations, like breaching terms of service agreements or website notices.
Soon after Swartz’s tragic death, Lofgren announced plans for Aaron’s law on Reddit – the wildly popular news aggregator Aaron helped develop at the ripe old age of 14. Now, its officially been introduced in the House. Co-authored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) – who is expected to introduce a similar bill in the Senate – Aaron’s law specifically seeks to eliminate, as Lofgren put it, “the core flaw of the CFAA,” which is vagueness. It also eliminates the ability to charge someone multiple times for the same violation.
In 2011, federal authorities indicted Swartz for downloading a massive amount of data from MIT’s JSTOR academic articles database. A highly contested case, the government decided to follow through with a lawsuit against Aaron even though the university failed to press charges. Basically, the feds wanted to make an example out of Swartz – even though his actions did not cause any danger to national security, the school or any citizen. Moreover, government attorneys decided to pile on the charges, and as a result, if convicted – which looked to be inevitable – Aaron faced 35 years behind bars, again, for essentially being an extremely bright, overzealous student.
If passed into law, Aaron’s Law will not compromise national security, but it will ensure that citizens aren’t subjected to lifelong prison sentences for violating non-government-related digital notices and website terms of service agreements. And it is definitely a law that Kelly Warner backs.