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TMCNet:  Lofgren floats 'Aaron's law' on Reddit after Aaron Swartz's death

[January 16, 2013]

Lofgren floats 'Aaron's law' on Reddit after Aaron Swartz's death

Jan 16, 2013 (Los Angeles Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- SAN FRANCISCO -- Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) posted a draft bill to social news website Reddit that would change a controversial computer hacking law used to prosecute Internet activist Aaron Swartz.

Swartz, a Reddit co-founder, was found dead Friday in his New York apartment. He apparently had hanged himself.

His family blamed his death on "prosecutorial overreach." Swartz was indicted in 2011. Federal prosecutors alleged he used MIT's computers to illegally access millions of academic articles through the JSTOR database, a subscription service for scholarly articles. He was scheduled to go to trial in April on 13 counts including computer fraud. He was distraught over the possibility of millions of dollars in fines and up to 35 years in prison, friends and family said.

"His family's statement about this speaks volumes about the inappropriate efforts undertaken by the U.S. government," Lofgren wrote in a post on Reddit. "There's no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron's death, but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced." Lofgren said she is seeking to limit "the broad scope" of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the wire fraud statute.

Interpreting the law the way prosecutors did "could criminalize many everyday activities and allow for outlandishly severe penalties," she wrote.

She said she is calling it "Aaron's law." The Electronic Frontier Foundation has called for changes to the hacking law, calling it "draconian." "Aaron was one of our community's best and brightest, and he achieved great things in his short life. He was a coder, a political activist, an entrepreneur, a contributor to major technological developments (like RSS), and an all-around Internet freedom rock star," Marcia Hofmann, a senior staff attorney at EFF, wrote in a blog post. "The government should never have thrown the book at Aaron for accessing MIT's network and downloading scholarly research. However, some extremely problematic elements of the law made it possible." Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School who was a friend of Swartz, applauded Lofgren's draft measure.

"Let's get this done for Aaron -- now," Lessig wrote in a comment to Lofgren's post.

Follow me on Twitter @jguynn ___ (c)2013 the Los Angeles Times Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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