Aaron’s Law: Updating The Computer Fraud And Abuse Act For The 21st Century

Aaron’s Law
Aaron Swartz

2017 Update: According to Govtrack.com, Aaron’s Law “was introduced on June 20, 2013, in a previous session of Congress, but was not enacted.”

***Original Article***

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced Aaron’s Law in the House. A much anticipated bill, the proposal aims to eliminate vagueness in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Named after Aaron Swartz – the computer genius who took his own life when faced with 35 years in prison for downloading academic articles – the law would make it impossible for federal authorities to convict someone for minor terms violations.

How Aaron’s Law Came About

Soon after Swartz’s tragic death, Lofgren announced Aaron’s Law on Reddit – the popular news aggregator Aaron helped develop at 14.

In 2013, Lofgren introduced it to the House. Co-authored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) – who is expected to introduce a similar bill in the Senate – the bill seeks to eliminate“the core flaw of the CFAA,” which is vagueness.

Aaron’s Law seeks to eliminate“the core flaw of the CFAA,” which is vagueness.

Aaron Swartz’s Tragic Story

In 2011, federal authorities indicted Swartz for downloading massive amounts of data from MIT’s JSTOR academic database.

A highly contested case, the government sued Aaron even though the university didn’t press charges. Basically, the feds wanted to make an example out of Swartz – even though his actions didn’t cause any danger to national security, the school, or citizens.

To make matters worse, government attorneys piled on the charges, and if convicted – which looked to be inevitable – Aaron faced 35 years behind bars. Again, 35 years for the crime of being an extremely bright, overzealous student.

If ratified, Aaron’s Law will not compromise national security. But it will protect citizens from lifelong prison sentences for non-criminal ToS infringements.