Riding an impressive wave of momentum for Internet activism in the wake of Aaron Swartz’s suicide, California Representative Zoe Lofgren has drafted a bill to update the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. Swartz, a co-founder of Reddit and vocal fighter for a more open web, was facing up to 35 years in prison for downloading millions of scholarly articles he allegedly wanted to make free, leaving his friends and family to blame his death on “prosecutorial overreach.” For help on what she’s calling “Aaron’s Law,” Lofgren went straight to those most likely to be mobilized by Swartz’s suicide: the people of Reddit.
The bill, posted to Reddit as a PDF, hopes to “amend title 18, United States Code, to exclude certain violations of agreements or contractual obligations, relating to Internet service, from the purview of certain criminal prohibitions, and for other purposes.”
According to Swartz’s friend, law professor and activist Lawrence Lessig, who commented on the post, “If ‘Aaron’s Law’ had been law, Aaron would not have been charged with a felony, and so there would not have been jail time to refuse.” At Swartz’s funeral on Tuesday, his father said, “He was killed by the government.”
“I’m definitely for what’s been proposed so far. And I’m definitely for it being improved by this community,” Lessig added. “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.”