Aaron Swartz killed himself two years to the day after he was charged with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a controversial legislation that some courts have interpreted as making it a felony to do anything not explicitly authorized with a computer you don't own (for example, changing one character in a URL in your browser and accessing a document can be a felony). Many attempts have been made to reform CFAA, none successful. Now Rep Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has introduced "Aaron's Law", to insert the following in its pre-amble:
A violation of an agreement or contractual obligation regarding Internet or computer use, such as an acceptable use policy or terms of service agreement, with an Internet service provider, Internet website, or employer is not in itself a violation of this section.
Larry Lessig has endorsed the proposal, saying, "Hey, this is a CRITICALLY important change that would do incredible good. The CFAA was the hook for the government's bullying of @aaronsw. This law would remove that hook. In a single line: no longer would it be a felony to breach a contract. Let's get this done for Aaron — now."
This is a great start. A great start. But it's only a start. Aaron's cause wasn't bringing justice to computer users, it was bringing justice to everyone. America is history's number one imprisoner, and its penal system is ghastly and inhumane. CFAA-based bullying is just a symptom, not the disease.Next post