Speak Up And Fix The CFAA

from the don't-make-it-worse dept

A bunch of internet activists, including Fight for the Future and Demand Progress, among others, have launched a new site: FixTheCFAA.com, asking people to contact their lawmakers and demand that they fix the CFAA law, rather than make it worse.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the law under which Aaron Swartz and other innovators and activists have been threatened with decades in prison. The CFAA is so broad that law enforcement says it criminalizes all sorts of mundane Internet use: Potentially even breaking a website's fine print terms of service agreement. Don't set up a Myspace page for your cat. Don't fudge your height on a dating site. Don't share your Facebook password with anybody: You could be committing a federal crime. (Read more here.)

It's the vagueness and over breadth of this law that allows prosecutors to go after people like Aaron Swartz, who tragically committed suicide earlier this year. The government threatened to jail him for decades for downloading academic articles from the website JSTOR.

Since Aaron's death, activists have cried out for reform of the CFAA. But members of the House Judiciary Committee are actually floating a proposal to expand and strengthen it -- that could come up for a vote as soon as April 10th! (Read more here.)

Thankfully, we've heard that the public outcry over the bad CFAA reform proposal probably (though not definitely) means that it won't be scheduled for a markup this week (as originally intended). However, that doesn't mean it's not still a major risk. There remains strong support from law enforcement folks and the Justice Department in particular for this kind of CFAA reform (the kind that makes it even broader). And, tragically, many in Congress just don't think that the public cares enough to support a bill in the other direction. Hopefully enough people speak up and let them know that this is unacceptable. A law that criminalizes breaking terms of service is not a law worth having on the books.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Nigel (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 9:29pm

    Pitchforks

    Its about time we set some shit on fire! Those old fuckers get up earlier than us.

    Nigel

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2013 @ 3:10am

    this type of bill will not only mean criminal charges for doing the most ridiculous of things, whilst being totally oblivious that it is illegal to do, companies are going to be rubbing their hands because people will be trapped in conditions they had no idea existed when they signed contracts. this will also be evident because of the way government agencies are able to have 'secret interpretations' of rules. anyone that thinks companies wont be bringing these into their terms, think again!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2013 @ 5:49am

    The bright side

    On the bright side, this bill, making it so easy to commit federal crimes, punishable by decades, could be used to clean out congress and the DOJ.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      AC Unknown, Apr 9th, 2013 @ 9:45am

      Re: The bright side

      I see a problem in that the feds won't go after one another for crimes under the CFAA. You know, the whole high court/low court problem.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    JP Jones (profile), Apr 9th, 2013 @ 12:03pm

    It still boggles my mind that Terms of Service could be considered legally binding. Since when does the purchase or use of something create an automatic, non-negotiable contract?

    It would be like buying a desk that's only allowed to be placed on east-facing walls...put it on a north facing wall and now you're facing criminal penalties! What? You didn't agree to these terms? They're listed in section 36 on the 10 page document in the desk drawer that you can't open until after you bring the desk home and build it (which, since it's been built, you can no longer return).

    Oh, you took a picture of your room with the desk in it, too? That's copyright infringement as well. You're in a heap of trouble! Prepare to spend at least $50,000 in legal fees...minimum, even if you somehow defend against your crime! Oh, and in the meantime your house will be confiscated indefinitely until the FBI can determine if you've possibly broken any more laws. If you're lucky you may even have it returned...most likely with all your furniture and belongings removed, you know, to avoid returning possibly illegal evidence back to you. No, you will not be compensated. You should never have been suspected of breaking the law...that's your fault!

    Yet this is pretty much the exact situation computer users risk every day under the CFAA/DMCA. Obviously we only disagree with it because we're criminals. Obviously.

    /sigh

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Stefan, Apr 9th, 2013 @ 11:09pm

      Response to: JP Jones on Apr 9th, 2013 @ 12:03pm

      The CFAA is not a USE restriction statute. It is, according to most cts, an ACCESS statute. Once access is given, you buy the desk, your use of it, the desk, falls outside of the CFAA's reach. I disagree with the interpretation and think that congress did intend the CFAA to be a use or better yet, misappropriation statute. Either way your desk analogy is flawed.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    David, Apr 9th, 2013 @ 6:03pm

    Fun while it lasted

    The Internet was fun while it lasted. They want to take the Internet from us and they are doing just that bit by bit. The Internet lives on user generated content. I can see it now. First web sites will start holding all comments for approval before posting them. It may take days or weeks to see your comment on-line if ever. A lot of sites will just remove the comment posting altogether. A lot of web sites will just go off-line for good. A lot of people will be too afraid to post anything at all. The Internet will slowly stave to death. What will replace it will hardly be worth even having access to. Might as well face facts, the Internet as we have grown to know it is quickly becoming a thing of the past. I see it going back to much like what it was in the late 70's into the mid 80's. The monochrome screens may even make a come back at this rate. I seen the birth of the Internet but I never dreamed I would also be around for it's death. Enjoy it while you can.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This