In the wake of Aaron Swartz’ suicide, Rep. Zoe Lofgren said she was drafting a bill to fix the archaic Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that led to his arrest. She even appealed to Reddit users to help her write the first draft. Now that first draft is heading up the legislative food chain.
The Hill reports that “Aaron’s Law” will be going before the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. The Committee will also be looking at a number of other factors, including judicial decisions in cases involving the CFAA, before it makes any decision.
At the annual State of the Net conference, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said that his Committee will be looking into Swartz’ case and others in the coming weeks:
“We certainly are going to look at that very carefully and see what we can do in that area, but at this point in time we’re looking at what occurred in specific instances and what needs to done to make sure that the law isn’t abused. There’s a lot of legal input, judicial input into this and we’re going to look at that and pair it up against what the language of the law is today and how we’re going to pursue it—but we’re just starting on that.”
It may not provide much comfort to Swartz’ grieving family, friends and supporters, but they must be a little relieved that lawmakers will be looking into what they see as an abuse of the law. In fact, Swartz’ family blamed their son’s death on a “criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”
It’s hard to say if the Committee will side with Lofgren and Swartz’ supporters on this issue, but there is plenty of public support for reform. People unwittingly violate terms of service agreements every day, and a broad interpretation of the CFAA as is could lead to these people facing jail time over an innocuous offense. Lofgren’s bill would “work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power [Swartz] experienced.”