This Site's Terms Of Service

Aaron Swartz is dead -- in my view, as a friend who knew him well for more than a decade --at least in part because of this breach of its duty by the government. Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney overseeing the prosecution, demonstrated that breach with the ignorance she displayed when this indictment was announced. As she said then, "Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar," -- demonstrating she knows nothing about computers, and apparently nothing about crowbars. And the line prosecutor working for her breached that trust when he made it clear that his first priority was not decency or proportionality but one more notch on his prosecutor's belt, for a prosecution that had nothing to do with keeping America safe from "criminals."

But now Congress may actually do something to remedy at least part of this important flaw. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has introduced a draft bill -- importantly, first on Reddit, a platform Aaron had helped to build, and, once she gets the Net's feedback, in the United States Congress -- to change this rule of the CFAA and return contract law to its civil home. Her bill, which she calls "Aaron's Law," would limit the scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and exclude "crimes" that are nothing more than a breach of contract. No more "felonies." No more prosecutions resulting in prison sentences. Violations of the "terms of service" would be a breach, not a crime. Had that change been made before Aaron's death, the government's felony charges would likely have collapsed. Had the government's charges collapsed, Aaron Swartz, in my view, would still be frantically working to make the world a better place.

Lofgren should be praised for her quick and smart response to the mess that brought about this tragedy. This isn't the only change that computer and copyright law require. It's not even on the top 10 list of the causes Aaron was fighting for.

But it is an important start, and more changes can be added as people review the Reddit draft. And with the bipartisanship demonstrated by Darrell Issa's comments about this tragedy, it may well be an idea that even this Congress could pass.

It won't bring Aaron back. It won't restore his devastated family, or bring peace to his bewildered friends. But it could fix an important flaw in the law regulating the Internet, and more importantly, send a critical message to our insanely powerful government: You need to earn your trust with every single prosecution. And the fastest way to lose it is to bully to death a brilliant boy whose only real crime was to expect more from all of us -- and especially from the law.

Source :

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