Introducing 'Aaron's Law'


Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced “Aaron’s Law” on Tuesday night, announcing it via the user-generated site Reddit. The piece of legislation would modify the the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to exclude terms of service violations. “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,” Lofgren wrote. “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.” Read the full bill here.

Meanwhile, The Hill reports that federal prosecutors came under fire yesterday by lawmakers for their "ridiculous and trumped-up" charges against Aaron Swartz:

“The charges were ridiculous and trumped-up,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) told The Hill. “It's absurd that he was made a scapegoat. I would hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else.”

Polis called Swartz — a co-creator of Reddit who was accused of stealing articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a "martyr" for why Congress should limit the discretion of prosecutors.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said the government's handling of the case was “pretty outrageous.”

“Based on what I know, I think the Department of Justice was way out of line on the case,” she told The Hill.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has said that his Oversight panel will take a look at the case to determine if the federal prosecutors acted inappropriately:

Issa expressed sympathy with some of Swartz’s goals. While “cybercrime and hacking has to be taken seriously,” he said, Congress should take up Swartz's cause of making more information freely available to the public.

“We're looking at the real question of open government,” Issa said. “Has the government or even MIT been holding back materials that the public has a right to know?”

Issa said he wanted to make sure “that what is paid for is as widely available as possible to the American people.”

Many materials on JSTOR are funded by public universities or government research grants. Subscriptions to JSTOR cost thousands of dollars.

He also said “whether or not there was excessive prosecution is something we’ll look at.”

All three lawmakers -- Issa, Polis, and Lofgren -- serve on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department. They also worked with Swartz and his group "Demand Progress" in 2012 to defeat online piracy legislation that was backed by the entertainment industry.


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