from the the-new-way-to-do-legislation dept
A few weeks ago, we wrote about Rep. Zoe Lofgren announcing plans to via Reddit, to introduce CFAA reform, called “Aaron’s Law.” Since then, Lofgren has taken into account numerous concerns and thoughts from various stakeholders, many of whom discussed it directly on Reddit, and has now announced a second draft, also via Reddit. While the folks at EFF note that there are still some additional improvements needed, it is, certainly, an important step forward in much needed CFAA reform.
Of course, perhaps just as important is showing how this sort of public engagement in democracy can really work. The original draft of Aaron’s Law did receive some criticism from some people (including mocking by some of our usual critics in our comments), without any hint of recognition that this is part of the process. It wasn’t introduced on Reddit because it was complete, but in order to get feedback for these kinds of future drafts. That is an important point, and other legislators would do well in paying attention. And, of course, even this is not a finished product, but another snapshot as to where the process is now, with more ability for people to weigh in.
Thank you, Reddit and everyone else who provided feedback to the original rough draft bill to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute – the laws the government used to unfairly prosecute Aaron Swartz. With the help of Internet freedom advocates, computer and legal experts, the draft has been revised and is available here. I have been in communication with Aaron’s father who supports this draft bill and approves of the name “Aaron’s Law.”
Like the first draft, this revised draft explicitly excludes breaches of terms of service or user agreements as violations of the CFAA and wire fraud statute. This revised draft also makes clear that changing one’s MAC or IP address is not in itself a violation of the CFAA or wire fraud statute. In addition, this draft limits the scope of CFAA by defining “access without authorization” as the circumvention of technological access barriers. Taken together, the changes in this draft should prevent the kind of abusive prosecution directed at Aaron Swartz and would help protect other Internet users from outsized liability for everyday activity.
As our discussions have continued, it is clear that many believe a thorough revision of the CFAA and substantial reform of copyright laws are necessary. I agree. “Aaron’s Law” is not this complete overhaul, but is a first step down the road to comprehensive reform. If we succeed in getting this draft bill enacted into law, it will be in honor of Aaron Swartz, and should be seen as a beginning of a concerted effort to bring reform to these broader issues. To be successful, that effort will likely take substantial time and require sustained and intense support from all of you in a push that will need to exceed our stoppage of SOPA.
I see “Aaron’s Law” as common sense fixes that should be enacted to stop the kinds of abuse Aaron was subjected to from affecting others. I intend to introduce a final version of “Aaron’s Law” as legislation soon, and in talking with my friend Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, I understand he wants to introduce it in the Senate as well. I will be urging my colleagues in the House of Reps to become cosponsors. The chances of success – whether for “Aaron’s Law” or other proposals – will depend greatly on the degree of positive public engagement and support to change the law. As SOPA showed, when the Internet speaks, lawmakers listen. I think with enough constructive support we can have an opportunity to pass “Aaron’s Law.”
Many thanks to all of you – Zoe
Whether or not this actually works for this bill — or whether or not this really is the full type of CFAA reform that we need (and I do think it’s as good step in the right direction), it’s fascinating to watch the process itself.