19 Jul 2015

DEFINITION of ‘Aaron’s Law’
Aaron’s Law is a bill introduced in Congress in 2013 to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA). Representative Zoe Lofgren wrote the bill in response to the 2013 suicide of Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer and political activist who co-founded Reddit. The proposal died in Congress during the 2013 session.

Aaron Swartz was arrested in January 2011 pursuant to the CFAA and faced up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines for having downloaded a large amount of academic articles from JSTOR.

Proponents of Aaron’s Law argued that the CFAA is too vague and redundant. Because of the wording, users who violate terms of service can face prison and, because of redundancies in the CFAA, people can be tried for the same crime more than once under different provisions. Due to these redundancies, charges can be compounded and penalties can be severe if convicted.

Representative Lofgren’s bill proposed amending the language of the CFAA to make punishments in both prison terms and fines for downloading copyrighted material less punitive and more reflective of the value of the material stolen. The bill also sought to clarify vague statements and remove redundancies.

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