After the suicide of Aaron Swartz in early January, Rep. Zoe Lofgren got to work on an amendment to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to prevent another tragedy like Swartz’ from happening again. That original amendment was submitted to Reddit and the Internet at large to help her fine tune it before submitting it to the House Judiciary Committee. Now that revised amendment is ready for your perusal.
In an AMA posted to Reddit a few hours ago, Lofgren published the latest version of Aaron’s Law for Reddit to look over. You can read it here. If legalese is not your strong suit, Lofgren has also laid out in plain speak the core essence of Aaron’s Law:
Like the first draft, this revised draft explicitly excludes breaches of terms of service or user agreements as violations of the CFAA and wire fraud statute. This revised draft also makes clear that changing one’s MAC or IP address is not in itself a violation of the CFAA or wire fraud statute. In addition, this draft limits the scope of CFAA by defining “access without authorization” as the circumvention of technological access barriers. Taken together, the changes in this draft should prevent the kind of abusive prosecution directed at Aaron Swartz and would help protect other Internet users from outsized liability for everyday activity.
As our discussions have continued, it is clear that many believe a thorough revision of the CFAA and substantial reform of copyright laws are necessary. I agree. “Aaron’s Law” is not this complete overhaul, but is a first step down the road to comprehensive reform. If we succeed in getting this draft bill enacted into law, it will be in honor of Aaron Swartz, and should be seen as a beginning of a concerted effort to bring reform to these broader issues. To be successful, that effort will likely take substantial time and require sustained and intense support from all of you in a push that will need to exceed our stoppage of SOPA.
I see “Aaron’s Law” as common sense fixes that should be enacted to stop the kinds of abuse Aaron was subjected to from affecting others. I intend to introduce a final version of “Aaron’s Law” as legislation soon, and in talking with my friend Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, I understand he wants to introduce it in the Senate as well. I will be urging my colleagues in the House of Reps to become cosponsors. The chances of success – whether for “Aaron’s Law” or other proposals – will depend greatly on the degree of positive public engagement and support to change the law. As SOPA showed, when the Internet speaks, lawmakers listen. I think with enough constructive support we can have an opportunity to pass “Aaron’s Law.”
In the comments, Senator Ron Wyden showed up to offer his support for the bill, and said that he would be “taking the lead in the Senate” if the bill passes the House.
The executive director of Demand Progress, the organization founded by Swartz, also announced their newest campaign in the comments. It’s asking U.S. citizens to request their representatives back Aaron’s Law when it hits the floor.
As Logren points out, Aaron’s Law, and any other legislation like it, faces an uphill battle in Washington. The CFAA is a very old law that was introduced when the Internet was new and Machintosh was still king of home computing. Technology has drastically changed since then, but lawmakers’ perception of it has not. That’s going to be a problem as we go into a year where supporting any loosening of cyberlaws is tantamount to letting cyberterrorists just waltz right in.