Two Democratic members of Congress have filed legislation that would modify the federal anti-hacking law that was used to prosecute Aaron Swartz, a prominent Internet activist. Swartz, who faced up to 35 years in prison for allegedly gaining unauthorized access to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network, committed suicide in January.
“Aaron’s Law,’’ proposed by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, would alter the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to reduce or limit the penalties for violating the law. “The CFAA’s broad scope and vague standards all but invite prosecutorial abuse,’’ said Wyden in a statement. “The important reforms we propose today would bring the law in line with the reality of the digital landscape of 2013 while making sure the changes do not undermine the ability to fully prosecute malicious hacks.’’
Aaron’s Law would clarify the CFAA to ensure that a person could not be prosecuted merely for violating the terms of service of an Internet site. The new legislation would also eliminate a redundant provision of the CFAA that was used to to charge Swartz with multiple felonies for the same act. Aaron’s Law would also reduce penalties for non-felony violations of the law.